HEALTH and safety regulators rapped Dorset Council's pest control practices after a dog died from ingesting rat poison that was inside a bait box.

An investigation was launched by the local authority and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following the death of mongrel Penny in Ferndown.

Owners Jem and Karen Mills had paid the council to install bait boxes to deal with a rat problem in their garden.

However, after a council pest controller set up sachets of poison within the traps, Penny managed to gain access to one of the boxes and consumed a quantity of anti-coagulant rodenticide.

Each box had been weighed down with a roof tile but this failed to deter the dog.

The pet's health deteriorated over the next few days. It was taken to the vets but did not recover.

Toxicology analysis confirmed the ingestion of poison was the cause of death.

"The dog saw the bait boxes and was inquisitive about what they were and she managed to get inside them," said Mr Mills.

"We had to rush her to the vets because she was off her food and she was taken into intensive care. They did everything the could, with blood transfusions but she died.

"I think what has happened is unacceptable."

Mr Mills reported the incident, which took place in July last year, to HSE.

He said he has concerns about the outcome of the investigation, highlighting it could have been a child and not a dog that consumed the poison.

A letter sent to Dorset Council by HSE said the local authority was unable to show a "suitably robust environmental risk assessment" had been completed.

The regulator also said the pest controller did not ensure sufficient measures were in place so that the bait box could not be moved.

Despite these issues, HSE decided against taking further legal action after issuing enforcement action.

A HSE spokesman said: "The incident was originally notified to the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme at Fera Science Limited and investigated under the scheme by Natural England staff acting on HSE’s behalf and HSE inspectors.

"The investigation identified the need for a number of improvements to be made to the council’s processes. This led HSE to take enforcement action which has now been acted upon.”

Graham Duggan, Dorset Council's head of community and public protection, said: “We were so sorry to hear of the death of this dog and launched an investigation as soon as we became aware of the case.

"We welcomed a visit from the HSE in early December to look at the controls employed by the Pest Control Service.

"We are acting on the HSE recommendations and have reviewed our processes and procedures for the service, ensuring that our risk assessments and treatments are in line with the relevant code of practice.”