When Willia Peoples, owner of the Millville Pet Stop, arrived at work on Friday, she was not filled with the cheer that normally comes with an impending three-day holiday weekend. Vandals had poured detergent into the outdoor man-made pond that sits in front of the shop’s grooming station, killing 64 koi fish and causing more than $5,000 in damage.
“For me it’s no different than if you took kittens and shot them with BB guns,” Peoples said. “You can’t really put a monetary value on it. They are pets.”
Delaware State Police are investigating the incident with help from Peoples and the community. Peoples found bottles of Shur-fine laundry detergent in her dumpster on Friday.
Call state police at (302) 856-5850 or Peoples at the shop at (302) 539-9382 with any information. Peoples said she will offer a $200 reward for information leading to an arrest.
“Someone was ignorant enough to kill 64 fish for $10 worth of soap suds,” Peoples said, adding that the culprit or culprits should serve community service time to learn the value of all of God’s creatures. “If they don’t have any idea that fish are one of God’s creatures, they need to.”
Soap suds attach to fishes’ gills, leaving them unable to breathe, Peoples said. The koi in the pond last week suffocated due to the soap, just as humans would if someone held a hand over another person’s mouth and nose, she added.
The koi killed last week ranged in age from 1- to 8-years-old. Most were more than 10 inches long and some measured at 14 to 16 inches and might have never left the pond. If sold, many would have gone for more than $75 each, Peoples said.
The real monetary damage, however, was in the necessary maintenance afterward to ready the manmade pond for more fish, which will likely not be placed there until the spring of 2007, she added. Peoples said she will have to fill the pond and drain and pressure wash it several times, trying to remove all remnants of detergent, the least trace of which would be fatally harmful for any fish living in there.
“It is no nicer of a death for fish than it would be to take a puppy and hold its mouth until it can’t breathe,” Peoples said. “This is no different than the family pet. A lot of times we don’t see it that way but it’s the same. You have to put your foot down and say you can’t do this. I’m not going to tolerate (it). You can’t. This is how I make my living.”