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6 dogs die after visiting dog-training area in Salt Lake City

Posted at 2:04 PM, May 24, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — A dog-training area in Salt Lake City is closed until further notice due to potential contamination that resulted in the deaths of six dogs.

The area is located at the Lee Kay Public Shooting Range at 6000 West 2100 South but is not on the range, rather is in a separate wildlife conservation training area.

According to dog owner and trainer Eric Fryer, the Lee Kay Conservation Area is one of the few places available for dog trainers.

“There's really nowhere we have, any state around here, that has anything close to what we have at Lee Kay," he said. “Whether you're training a dog for, just to be a hunting dog, or you want to go to the top levels of competition, you've got to have water, and you've got to have clean water to teach them to swim, to teach them to do whatever we need them to do.”

Officials report that on Saturday they were notified that six dogs who were training in the area were vomiting and had diarrhea.

On May 12, a dog trainer brought 13 dogs to the area for training sessions over the course of eight days, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources spokesperson Faith Heaton Jolley explained.

“The dog owner had reported observing some of the dogs eating kind of a crusty, salt-like layer on some of the grass near the edge of the water," she said.

The trainer allowed the dogs to roam around the property and into the pond and later noticed the dogs were vomiting.

Photos show a light gray substance near the water, which may be the source of the bacteria.

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The illness did not resolve and one of the dogs had to be euthanized while the other five died shortly after, the entire conservation area was closed to the public until they can confirm the cause of death of the six dogs.

“Scientists said there was no visual evidence of a harmful algal bloom on the water at that point, but they did say it looked like there was some growth, which they think is likely composed of cyanobacteria on some of those grasses along the shoreline of the pond.”

Tests are underway to determine if there was any contamination at the dog-training area but until an investigation is complete, a padlock will be put on the gate to prevent any other potential dog deaths.

Experts believe there's some type of bacteria in the area, but they're waiting on results from tests to determine exactly what is happening.

"We are working with the Utah Division of Water Quality and will work to take the needed precautions to ensure the safety of visitors at the training grounds before reopening the area to public use," a statement from officials reads. "Public safety and the well-being of the dogs that use this facility are a top priority for us. Our heart goes out to the dog owner for the unfortunate loss of these dogs."

According to Fryer, The Wasatch Hunting Retriever Club had to cancel its annual Memorial Day Weekend test event, which more than 300 registered dogs.

“I've been going to Lee Kay since the mid-nineties," he said. "Currently, I'm out there probably four or five days a week. I've never had an issue with any of my dogs.”

Utah Division of Water Quality researchers are still waiting on the results of their tests. The area will remain closed out of an abundance of caution.