Algae suspected in death of Santa Rosa dog that played in park pond

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An 11-month-old Santa Rosa dog died a “horrible death” Monday, a day after she was in the water at a park where a city worker subsequently found a small patch of algae responsible for numerous public health warnings and two other dog deaths in recent years.

“That damn blue-green algae killed her and we are heartbroken,” Danielle Hill-Hruby said in a public Facebook post Monday afternoon. “It happened so fast and is no joke. It’s awful.”

Hill-Hruby could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but a city official said she called the city Recreation & Parks office Tuesday morning to report the death of her dog, Konah.

A Santa Rosa veterinarian called the department Monday night and left a message regarding the dog’s death, prompting Dean Hamlin, a park supervisor, to check the pond at Rincon Valley Community Park adjacent to Maria Carrillo High School.

Hamlin found a patch, about 3 feet square, of blue-green algae in the pond next to the dog park, said Kristi Buffo, a Recreation & Parks marketing and outreach coordinator.

“We’ve seen it before at Howarth Park, she said.

Signs are posted at Howarth Park’s Lake Ralphine warning of a blue-green algae bloom.

In her Facebook post, Hill-Hruby said she and her husband took Konah to the dog park Sunday with no awareness of the hazard.

“I had no idea, so please be aware it’s a horrible death,” she said. “We are contacting the city parks so hopefully it doesn’t happen to another dog. Rest in Peace sweet girl.”

Signs warning of “possible toxic algae” were posted Monday night at the ponds in Rincon Valley Community Park and were to be posted Tuesday at Nagasawa Community Park on Fountaingrove Parkway, which has a lake and boat ramp, and at A Place to Play Community Park on West Third Street, which has a lake.

A blue-green algae bloom was spotted near the dock at Lake Ralphine in Santa Rosa’s Howarth Park on Tuesday morning and warning signs were posted at the dock, the dam and other park access points, Buffo said.

Algae blooms have been seen intermittently since mid-summer near the dock and boat launch at the 25-acre lake, which is used only for boating and fishing, she said. Blooms move around with the wind and also move up and down from the surface to below the surface of the water.

Swimming and dogs are never allowed in the lake and city-sponsored activities are canceled whenever algae appears near the dock. The dock and launch are open at all times to the public, Buffo said.

The Recreation & Parks website warns that blue-green algae “can be dangerous to people and pets” and advises people to stay out of the water when a bloom is present, keep dogs away from it, do not drink the water and avoid contact with algae.

Fish caught in the water and any berries collected near it should be cleaned before eating.

Handmade cardboard signs at the entrances to the Rincon Valley park and around the pond said: “Toxic. Blue-green algae found in pond. Deadly to dogs and kids. One dog death already. RIP Konah.”

The Sonoma County Department of Health Services is investigating the conditions at the park in the 5100 block of Badger Road.

Health officials received word of the dog’s death on Tuesday and are consulting with city parks officials to determine the next step, said Rohish Lal, a health services spokesman.

“We still have to pin down all of the details,” he said, adding that no water tests have been initiated.

Sonoma County Regional Parks posted advisory signs on Friday at Spring Lake because of “visible cyanobacteria bloom and scum,” the signs said.

Children and dogs were advised to avoid those conditions. Spring Lake is in a county park bordering Santa Rosa’s Howarth Park.

Cyanobacteria is the technical term for blue-green algae, which is not true algae and has appeared in the area’s lakes and rivers in recent years.

Sonoma County officials posted caution signs at beaches up and down the Russian River in July 2017 after tests found low levels of a naturally occurring neurotoxin produced by a certain species of blue-green algae in water samples from three beaches.

It was the third year in a row the algae-related toxin had been detected in the river.

Algae-related toxins were also reported in 2017 at several sites around Northern California, including Clear Lake and Upper and Lower Blue Lakes, all in Lake County.

An outbreak of harmful algae in the Russian River led to the deaths of two dogs in the summer of 2015.

Lake County officials urged residents and visitors to stay out of certain areas in Clear Lake in July because of blue-green algae. Officials could not be reached Tuesday to determine the lake’s status.

Blue-green algae tends to thrive in warm, slow-moving water, which is why it tends to peak in the latter part of summer.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @guykovner

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