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  • Adria Henderson

A Place Called Hope is Working to Save CT's Birds of Prey

Connecticut homeowners should be aware that easily available, Second-Generation Anticoagulant Rodenticides SGARs used to kill rodents in your garden or yard, including those same poisons used by professional pest companies, can cause irreparable injury to your cats and dogs, and other wildlife species, if ingested, including uncontrollable bleeding, kidney failure, seizures and sometimes death.  

In 2007, when Christine Cummings, a Connecticut rehabilitator opened a facility in Killingworth, CT and named it A PLACE CALLED HOPE, hope is what she believed she could offer the wildlife in her care, specifically raptors.   But she found herself up against a pervasive, unrelenting poison SGARs, Second Generation Anticoagulant Rodenticides, killing a lot of that hope - and so many of the raptors brought to her for treatment. It was more than disheartening, it was deadly, and to many more than its intended target.   

Second Generation Anticoagulant Rodenticides are killing Connecticut’s hawks, owls, falcons, and other raptors and their offspring at an alarming rate. These poisons were originally formulated to kill rodents like rats and mice, squirrels, chipmunks, and other small mammals, but rodents are the main food source of most raptors.  If a mother owl feeds a rodenticide-poisoned mouse to her baby owlet, it will kill the baby in an excruciating manner.  SGARs are anti-coagulants; the babies and whatever raptor consumes the rodents, will bleed out from the inside, a slow, painful death.  

This happens almost daily to the raptors cared for by Christine Cummings, her staff and volunteers at A PLACE CALLED HOPE in Killingworth, CT. It’s especially egregious when there’s an easily accessible, viable alternative to rodenticides, Integrated Pest Management (IPM),, a process to solve the problem while minimizing risks to people, pets, and the environment. In fact, the best natural solution to rodent control are birds of prey and other small mammals when you consider one family of barn owls can eat 3,000 rodents in one breeding season! 

In 2014, the United States Environmental Protection Agency pulled SGARs from consumer’s shelves, but licensed, pesticide application companies can legally purchase SGARS for commercial use; there are 322 of these companies in Connecticut still using SGARs causing needless suffering to birds of prey, pets - and the environment. Although the ability for Connecticut residents to purchase SGARs in consumer markets is prohibited, consumers can easily purchase these rodenticides online. This insidious toxin continues to be marketed by lawn care and pest removal companies as safe for the environment, your pets and you.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  

Each year the ASPCA issues a list of the top 10 poisons for your pets.  Rodenticides always make the list.  The ingredients in SGARs that make it so appealing to rodents, unfortunately, have the same effect on your cats and dogs, causing bleeding, kidney failure, seizures and sometimes death. If you use SGARs in your house or garden to kill rodents and your pet consumes that rodent, the likelihood of death is very real.  And the damage from SGARs doesn’t end with the unintended victims.   


18  •     Fall 2023 | Connecticut Dog 


This is a 19-year-old, adult male osprey from Old Lyme. It’s possible he came down due

to old age, but his blood work indicated elevated levels of mercury. He is being treated

for mercury poisoning and he is responding! 

As animals eat rodents that have ingested the poison, the concentration of the poison increases as it moves up the food chain causing immune system damage in a process called bioaccumulation. This immune system damage impairs birds of prey’s ability to fly and avoid car strikes and impacts other wildlife such as foxes and coyotes with devastating immune system diseases such as mange.  An unending chain of death.   


This is Ottsi, a male Snowy Owl. As a result of a vehicle impact, he suffered a severe head injury and lost part of one of his wings. He cannot be released and is a permanent resident at A Place Called Hope.    

 Christine Cumings and A Place Called Hope’s ultimate goal is to rescue, rehabilitate and release each bird in her care back into the wild whenever possible.   SGAR poisoning has substantially reduced the number of these magnificent creatures able to be released.  She’s rarely able to save them. 

You can hear the passion in Cummings’ voice when she talks about the loss of raptors, “We owe it to our children, domesticated pets, and our wildlife to start with a complete ban on the deadliest of these poisons, Second Generation Anticoagulant Rodenticides. From where I stand, as I physically cradle a secondarily poisoned hawk, falcon, or owl victim in hand, I am outraged. This unnecessary suffering is shameful when there are alternative solutions readily available. Consumers will dictate the demand, so make your voice heard and PLEASE BAN RODENTICIDES.” 


In the last three Connecticut legislative sessions, lawn care and chemical companies have successfully defeated proposed SGAR bans supported by Connecticut’s animal and environmental organizations.   With the rodent poison still available here and used by both consumers and pest control companies, there will be a 2024 renewed effort, including support from CT Votes for Animals, to push for an immediate ban on the sale and use of SGARs, once again. Connecticut’s animals deserve nothing less.     

Note: In her ongoing efforts to save these birds, Cummings has been submitting specimens from hawks, barred owls, great-horned owls, and other birds to UConn for testing; 84% of the completed tests to date are positive for one or more of the ingredients that make up SGARS.  


For additional info about A Place Called Hope and Cumming’s fight to save her raptors from this deadly toxin, go to: 

Fall 2023 | Connecticut Dog   •   19 

Article and photos by: Adria L. Henderson 

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