Editor's Note

Toxic Pet Toys: Breeding Contempt

The phrase “pet parent” is rather new. Some attribute its origination to companies that make pet products, to tug at the heart strings and to loosen up wallets for increased purchase of their goods.

I must admit, when I first heard it, I chuckled. There was an absurdity to it for me. I owned dogs, but I never considered them my children. However, my dogs were undoubtedly “family,” and when my most recent dog, Samantha, a golden retriever, died, I was sad and felt the loss for some time. When I acquire my next dog, I still won’t consider it my child, but who am I to begrudge others who care for their dog or cat like their offspring?

All of this said, I wonder whether people who work at Consumer Product Safety Commission and Food and Drug Administration have heard the phrase “pet parent,” because neither organization does anything to ensure that pet toys are made in a way that ensures that dogs and cats aren’t at risk of injury or worse. It’s appalling. In fact, given the likely large percentage of employees of the two agencies who own a dog or a cat, I urge those people to ask their supervisors why their agency doesn’t care that toys for pets aren’t scrutinized for dangerous materials and flimsy construction. At minimum, why does neither agency require makers of pet toys to list the toys’ materials on their packaging?

“There’s no transparency” in regard to what goes in pet toys, says dog owner Carol Bryant of Fidoseofreality.com. “There’s got to be something that changes, so consumers can scrutinize and proceed with caution.”

When Bryant attended the 2016 Global Pet Expo, she paid particular attention to pet toys. “It’s dreadful” that the packaging of a large percentage of pet toys lacked information about the toys’ materials, she says.

“Dreadful” might be your exact take—whether you’re a pet parent or not—after you read “Warning: Toxic Pet Toys—Where Are the Watchdogs?” Why are pet-toy makers allowed to include lead in amounts that substantially exceed the limits that are set for products for children? Why is there no restriction on the inclusion of phthalates in pet toys, despite a U.S. ban on the chemicals in children’s toys? Why did it take complaints from 60 pet owners that their dog suffered a severe injury or died before the nation’s largest retailer removed a “bone” from its store shelves?

Other than one partial instance, we found no U.S. retailer that’s proactive about pet-toy safety. That means that pet owners are begging for trouble if they presume that what they buy is safe—in many cases, it’s not.

What to do in light of this, other than not buying pet toys? “Carefully watch how your pet plays with a toy,” says veterinarian Dr. Heather Loenser, who is a veterinary adviser for American Animal Hospital Association. “Anything that a pet could chew, fetch or tug should be used under direct supervision of a responsible adult.”

She adds, “Seek emergency veterinary care if your pet is having difficulty breathing, begins gagging or starts pawing at his mouth, as this could be a sign of choking. Contact your veterinarian if your pet develops diarrhea, starts vomiting or refuses to eat for more than 8 hours.”

We appreciate Loenser’s guidance. Too bad it’s prompted by this ongoing negligence.

Rich Dzierwa, Editor