Friday, February 27, 2009

Threat to Society, Famous Animal Abuser, Convicted Felon, Convicted Dog Fighting Operation Leader Michael Vick to Soon be Released to Home Confinement

Here we go again. A rich famous animal abuser who doesn’t finish his time due to his money and connections. As we all remember, former NFL star Michael Vick was convicted of horrible crimes against dogs, as he operated a dog fighting ring.

For those who have forgotten, please visit our story about his the Michael Vick dog fighting conviction and description of horrible abuse of dogs he carried out at

Seems the excuse is that he will go home due to no bed space at a halfway house. Not a believable story at all. I’m guessing that his fame and money led to this situation. So, literally, a Threat to Society, Famous Animal Abuser, Convicted Felon, Convicted Dog Fighting Operation Leader will go home after a short time in jail to his comfy bed.


Dogfighting former NFL star Michael Vick preparing for home confinement

Imprisoned NFL player and convicted dog fighter Michael Vick has been approved for early release to home confinement, as per a government official

Jackson, Mississippi ( –Animal rights activists will not be happy to learn that imprisoned NFL player Michael Vick has been approved for early release to home confinement, as per a government official.

According to USA Today, “Vick’s lawyers have said they expected him to be moved any day into a halfway house in Newport News, Va. But the official says there’s no bed space, so Vick could be released to his Hampton, Va. home as soon as May 21st.”

The former Atlanta Falcons quarterback will be ordered to wear an electronic monitoring device and will only be allowed to leave his home for approved activities through his probation officer.

Vick created a wave of outrage after he was convicted of a dogfighting conspiracy and is currently serving a 23-month sentence at the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan.

Website Exposes Truth of Cruelty behind Greyhound Racing: Videos, Pictures and Fact Sheets Educate on Why Shouldn’t Support Greyhound Racing Industry

I’ll let the website speak for itself. You can’t argue with videos and pictures.

Please visit to view the Fact Sheet section and learn more about the cruelty of greyhound racing and the cruelty of the greyhound racing industry.

Famous Vegetarians and Vegans Honored at Web Page - Vegetarians We Love: Macho Men Who Don't Eat Meat

Another great web page dedicated to famous vegetarians and vegans - Vegetarians We Love: Macho Men Who Don't Eat Meat -

GEARI has also published a page with links to quotes from famous people regarding animal rights and vegetarianism and veganism -

The University of Michigan Medical School Ends Live Dog Lab: Now Help End Live Animal Use at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey

Many of you have probably heard the good news regarding University of Michigan ending its live dog lab. This good news has also been verified via the UM Medical School site at

In a letter sent by PCRM, it seems that the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) is still caught in the past via its use of live animals - vivisection. If you read the email I pasted below you’ll see how you can help this school step into current non-animal teaching methods.

For those of you who would like to learn more about alternatives to animal testing and vivisection, including what non-animal methods are available, please visit our page on alternatives to animal testing and vivisection at –

One such method mentioned below and used extensively is the TraumaMan System from Simulab. You can learn more about this at

Please read on below about the use of live animals at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of
New Jersey (UMDNJ) and how you can help end such archaic practices.

You have sent more than 20,000 e-mails to University of Michigan (U-M) administrators, asking them to use nonanimal training methods in their Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) course. The school’s Graduate Medical Education Committee recently met and decided that it agrees with you. No dogs or other animals will be killed in the school’s ATLS course, according to a university statement.

Your hard work helped end animal suffering and improve medical education in Michigan. Now we need your help to do the same thing in New Jersey. While more than 90 percent of United States and Canadian facilities no longer use animals for ATLS training, University Hospital in Newark, part of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), continues to use live pigs for its course, despite the availability of nonanimal alternatives like the TraumaMan System from Simulab. The hospital’s next ATLS course is scheduled for March 13.

Please e-mail, call, or write to UMDNJ president William Owen Jr., M.D., and politely ask him to end animal use in University Hospital’s ATLS course. Being polite is the most effective way to help these animals. Send an automatic e-mail.

William Owen Jr., M.D.
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey
65 Bergen St., Room 1535
University Heights
Newark, NJ 07107-3007
Phone: 973-972-4400

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Calgary Zoo Admits the Obvious: to Blame for Deaths of 41 Cownose Stingrays

Just another entry in our segment of “Why Zoos Shouldn’t Exist.” Sadly, another zoo is to blame for unnecessary deaths


Calgary Zoo admits it may be to blame for deaths of 41 stingrays last spring

By Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

CALGARY - An independent investigation is needed to look into the operations of the Calgary Zoo following a spate of wildlife deaths at the facility, an Ontario-based animal protection group said Tuesday.

The call from Zoocheck Canada comes as the president of the Calgary Zoo admitted human error is almost certainly to blame for the deaths of 41 stingrays last spring.

"We need to be very frank here and our main expertise is not in fish at the Calgary Zoo," president Clement Lanthier admitted at a news conference.

Lanthier calculated he was "99 per cent sure" a lack of dissolved oxygen in the water tank killed 41 of 43 cownose rays last May.

"This is something we want to expand. I think we have a responsibility to connect Calgarians - not only to the land animals but what's going on in the ocean."

The stingray exhibit was just reopened to the public in December. Zoo officials said at the time it was impossible to say exactly what had caused last May's deaths.

Cathy Gaviller, director of conservation, education and research at the zoo, still believes that.

"The honest answer is we can't say for sure because we can't prove it," she added. "It's not like we're 99.9 per cent sure and that's a scientific measurement of our certainty levels - it's a figure of speech."

"We can't prove this is the case, but we strongly believe dissolved oxygen was the cause of the mortalities."

There have been a number of other deaths at the Calgary Zoo, including four lowland gorillas, a baby elephant and a hippo that had been transported from the Denver Zoo.

Julie Woodyer from Zoocheck Canada said operations at the Calgary Zoo have been in a downward spiral and there needs to be someone outside the industry to investigate all of its operations.

"I personally think the person at the top is responsible for training his staff, for making sure that he knows how to care for the animals that he's bringing into the facility," Woodyer said from Toronto.

"To me, this just goes to the irresponsibility of this particular facility," she said.

"The Calgary Zoo had a very good reputation for many, many years and, probably in about the last decade, has slipped gradually and continues to get worse as time goes on."

Zoocheck wrote a letter to the Calgary Zoo in November 2008 asking the facility seek an independent investigation into the zoo's operation.

"Presumably if the zoo felt it had no issues and thought it was doing an exemplary job as they are constantly claiming they are, they would welcome such an investigation," said Woodyer.

Gaviller rejected the idea of an independent investigation.

"I'm not sure what Zoocheck's credentials are in terms of knowing how to look after a stingray tank. I think we do a good job of looking after our animals and sometimes I think, what is Zoocheck doing for conservation," she said.

"It's easy to sit back and criticize."

Iceland Re Joins Japan in Whale Killing Business: Reconsiders Whaling Quota Increase

As stated below, “Iceland and Norway are the only two countries in the world that authorize commercial whaling. Japan officially hunts whales for scientific purposes, although the whale meat is sold for consumption.”

Though this article discusses a possible decrease, it’s clear that Iceland will still take part in whaling. So, unfortunately, the whale killing will resume.


The Hunt Is On ... Or Not

Iceland reconsiders whaling quota increase

Posted at 2:43 PM on 03 Feb 2009

REYKJAVIK -- Iceland's new fisheries minister said Tuesday he might revise a sixfold increase in the country's disputed commercial whale hunt set by the previous government a week ago.

Steingrimur Sigfusson said whalers would receive a formal warning that the quota of 150 fin whales and up to 150 minke whales a year over the next five years was being reconsidered.

"By this, we are ensuring that expectations will not rise towards something that could change," he told reporters, adding that his ministry would review the North Atlantic island nation's whaling policy along with the ministries of foreign affairs, tourism and the environment.

Before the exiting government increased the quota on January 27, Iceland, which pulled out of an international whaling moratorium in 2006 after 16 years, had a quota of just nine fin whales and 40 minke whales per year.

The new quota was decided a day after former Prime Minister Geir Haarde's pro-whaling Independence Party and its Social Democratic coalition partner announced the government was to resign after months of protests over the country's economic meltdown.

Iceland's new left-wing interim government, made up of anti-whaling parties the Social Democrats and the Left Greens, took power on Sunday.

Conservation group Greenpeace welcomed Tuesday's announcement, saying in a statement it hoped the new government would not only reverse the quota decision "but end Icelandic whaling entirely."

Iceland and Norway are the only two countries in the world that authorize commercial whaling. Japan officially hunts whales for scientific purposes, although the whale meat is sold for consumption.

Sea Lions Newest Victims of Human Trash in Sea and Land: Entanglement and Death Occurring at High Rate in Alaska

You’ve probably all heard of how plastic 6 pack holders can entangle wildlife and eventually strangle them. Fish are at a particular threat to this. Well, now many marine mammals are also falling victim to human trash. The article below discuses the threats to sea lions in Alaska. Apparently, entanglement and death are occurring due to human trash.

As stated below, "Any type of loops in rope, monofilament fishing line, nets - these are all potentially hazardous," Jemison said. "There are some simple things we can do to avoid these types of entanglements: Secure garbage when at sea or on the coast, clean up trash you find on the beach that could wash into the ocean, and cut any loops that you are discarding."

I won’t state the obvious disturbing reality of this situation.


Entangled: Saving sea lions snared in trash
Researchers work on methods to free marine mammals

By Riley Woodford | For the Juneau Empire

About 40 sea lions lounged on the rocks at the Benjamin Island haulout north of Juneau, and one was injured. A thin, white plastic packing band circled his neck and cut deep into his skin.

Two biologists studied the animal from a skiff 40 yards off the rocks. Lauri Jemison and Jamie King of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game discussed possible ways to free the entangled animal. None seemed very promising.

Jemison and King are marine mammal researchers and they're trying to help entangled sea lions and prevent further entanglements. In recent years about 400 entangled sea lions have been documented in Southeast Alaska, although biologists believe the actual number is higher. About half the animals have loops around their necks - mostly hard plastic packing bands or heavy rubber loops made from inner tube material. About half are caught in fishing gear. A few are tangled in netting or rope, and one has an old tire stuck around its neck.

"Any kind of loop that goes into the water can be deadly," Jemison said. "A small loop can be deadly to seabirds and fish, a larger loop can entangle marine mammals. Synthetic materials are the worst. A simple solution is to cut any kind of loop you might have."

Bait boxes are often secured by packing bands which are made of a hard plastic material, and if those are lost overboard, uncut, they can be a source of entangling material. "We have seen a number of sea lions with packing bands around their neck, with the band cutting into the skin and flesh," Jemison said. "As the sea lion grows, the band cuts more deeply and eventually can kill the animal."

Jemison said young sea lions are extremely curious and investigate objects in the water and on beaches, and wind up with the loops around their necks.

"We watch the pups and juveniles play with anything and everything on the beach," she said. "Seaweed, we've seen wire in the water and watched them throwing it about, any debris in the water and they'll play with it."

About half the entanglements involve fishing gear. Sea lions will pursue and eat a fish that's been hooked by a sport or commercial fisherman, and wind up swallowing the hook. Jemison and her colleagues see animals with flashers attached to their mouths, hanging from line tied to a swallowed hook. Sometimes fishing lures and hooks are visible, and biologists believe more animals may be hooked but showing no outward sign. A necropsy of a dead sea lion found near Gustavus three years ago revealed a fishhook in its digestive tract.

"There's no way to know how many may be entangled (in this way), as there may be no external sign of entanglement," Jemison said. "They're interested in fish, and the sea lions are basically entangling themselves - when folks are out salmon fishing the sea lions are coming after the fish on the line, going for the fish and eating it."

Helping entangled or hooked animals is difficult. Jemison and King are looking to adapt the proven capture methods generally used for research. But these techniques focus on smaller, juvenile animals, and animals of all ages and both sexes are entangled in all different types of gear and debris. The techniques biologists use to capture animals such as moose and bears don't translate well to sea lions. A sea lion could be darted with a tranquilizer or immobilizing drug, but the animal could fall or jump in the water and then drown. The same could happen if a net gun is used, although there is some potential for these devices that throw nets.

"Basically we need the perfect situation - the animal is up high on the rocks, by itself, so there's no chance of catching two at once, and we need to be able to secure it so it doesn't go in the water," Jemison said.

Jemison said there have been a few successes. One small sea lion was tangled in line, and King was able to grab the line and pull the animal up to the skiff and cut it free. Elsewhere, some small sea lions have been restrained and plastic loops cut off their necks. The bands were embedded in the skin and biologists pulled the plastic through and out.

Far more promising is the prospect of reducing entangling materials in the environment. Cutting any loop is a good start.

"Any type of loops in rope, monofilament fishing line, nets - these are all potentially hazardous," Jemison said. "There are some simple things we can do to avoid these types of entanglements: Secure garbage when at sea or on the coast, clean up trash you find on the beach that could wash into the ocean, and cut any loops that you are discarding."

A number of organizations are working on the issue. The Marine Mammal Stranding Network, part of the National Marine Fisheries Service, is collecting data on entangled animals and sources of materials. The Marine Conservation Alliance Foundation has a Marine Debris program, and they're very interested in cleaning beaches and determining where the debris is coming from, Jemison said. "We're working with them to identify some of the hot spots - area that accumulate a lot of debris, areas that should be cleansed, and sources of material getting washed back in the ocean."

Jemison and King are working with a Prescott grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to develop methods to disentangle sea lions and to create a short video of entangled sea lions with information on how people can reduce entangling materials in the marine environment. They also plan to clean up beaches and monitor them.

"This summer we'll identify certain beaches near some of the larger haulouts and rookeries where we can monitor marine debris," Jemison said. "We'll clean debris off these beaches this summer, then we'll be able to go back each year as we're doing our annual Southeast-wide sea lion surveys and clean them off again and hopefully get an annual accumulation rate. Cleaning beaches is a great way folks can have a positive impact and reduce entangling materials out there."

• Riley Woodford produces the Sounds Wild radio program and is the editor of Alaska Fish and Wildlife News,, the online publication of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Thursday, February 05, 2009 Search and Rescue Program: Revenue from your Web Searches will go to the ASPCA and Animal Abuse Prevention

Revenue from your Web Searches will go to the ASPCA and Animal Abuse Prevention Simply by Using for your Web Searches

Seems like a pretty straight forward program. Keep in mind that not every search you perform generates revenue. Money is generated when you support an advertiser that appears on their search results page. As a metasearch engine, pulls results from the major search engines. So, unless you’re doing advanced search, or tailored search, you will see the same top results from the major search engines that you would have if you used them directly. So, then, if you care about the cause, then why not use for your web searches? Might as well!

For more information about the Search & Rescue Program see,

Here is more information about the Search & Rescue program taken from the program website at

“About Dogpile Search & Rescue

Search and Rescue is a Dogpile program through which we’re donating a portion of our revenue to the ASPCA. Our goal is to contribute $1 million to animal rescue by the end of 2009.
We at Dogpile are passionate about the welfare of animals. We believe in helping pets, and we know many of our loyal users do too. Dogpile Search & Rescue is just the latest of our pet-affinity initiatives. In December 2007, Dogpile raised $25,000 for the Humane Society, and we recently launched a pet adoption widget with, the leading online pet adoption site in the world. In 2008, we developed the Search & Rescue Toolbar so users could more easily access Dogpile, search the Web right from their browser and connect to sites and communities supporting pet adoption and animal abuse prevention.”

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Pesticides in Pet Products, Including Flea-and-Tick Products Killing Dogs and Cats: Would you put Pesticides Directly Onto your Body?

Unfortunately, the obvious risk of such chemicals to the health of companion animals is once again apparent. Though many chemicals are to blame for early death and on set of such issues as cancer, pyrethroids are discussed in this story. As stated below, “At least 1,600 pet deaths related to spot on treatments with pyrethroids were reported to the EPA over the last five years…”

This really has been common knowledge for some time, as really, would you put pesticides directly onto your body? Well, that’s exactly what happens when you add such products as those that kill fleas and ticks to the hair and skin of a companion animal. Seems pretty obvious.

Sadly though, this idiotic practice continues as you’ll read below.


Pesticides in Pet Products: Why Your Dog or Cat May Be at Risk

By M.B. Pell and Jillian Olsen, The Center for Public Integrity

Posted on February 2, 2009, Printed on February 3, 2009

Last June Diane Bromenschenkel applied a flea-and-tick product to her English pointer, Wings, so the dog wouldn't get ticks while hunting pheasant in the tall grasslands of western Idaho. Wings, a healthy five-year-old with a sleek white coat and a chocolate brown mask, enjoyed long walks in the woods, bacon treats, and burying things in the yard. But three months after the pesticide was applied, the animal was dead.

It was just hours following the use of the product that Bromenschenkel knew something was wrong. She noticed her dog walking around in a daze. Wings was unresponsive. On the advice of her veterinarian, Bromenschenkel tried to wash off the treatment —Bio Spot Spot On Flea and Tick Control for Dogs -- but the next day Wings was still suffering.

The dog stopped eating and drinking despite the application of appetite increasers, said Patricia Pence, the veterinarian and owner of South Wind Veterinary Hospital in Nampa, Idaho, where Wings was treated. "The anorexia is a direct result of the Bio Spot," Pence said. She believes the insecticide in Bio Spot damaged the portion of Wings' brain responsible for hunger and thirst. So she inserted a feeding tube into the dog's neck and for the next three months Bromenschenkel and Wings were in and out of the veterinary hospital.

During this period, Bromenschenkel woke up every two hours at night to give Wings an injection of liquid nutrient through the neck. She spent thousands of dollars on vet bills. Despite the best efforts of Bromenschenkel and Pence, however, the damage was done. In September, Wings' kidneys failed and Bromenschenkel made the difficult decision to put her dog to sleep. In days Wings had gone from a healthy dog, running alongside horses in the Owyhee Mountains, to an emaciated wreck, chasing phantom birds in the kitchen. "What's so terrible about it is that if you had known, you would never have used it," said Bromenschenkel of the Bio Spot.
The Debate Over Pyrethroids

imageWings died three months after being treated with Bio Spot flea and tick drops; her vet thinks the product damaged the part of Wings' brain responsible for hunger and thirst. Credit: Diane Bromenschenkel. Bio Spot contains a 45 percent solution of the active ingredient permethrin, a synthetic neurotoxin belonging to the pyrethroid family of chemicals. Bio Spot is one of several over-the-counter spot on (meaning squeezed on to a particular spot) anti-flea-and-tick products that consumers apply to cats and dogs between the shoulder blades and sometimes at the base of the tail. The animal's natural oils spread the insecticide over its body, making its skin and fur inhospitable to parasites. These pyrethroid-based flea and tick treatments -- from Hartz, Sergeant's, Farnam, and Bayer -- are approved for sale by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and they are readily available at grocery stores, specialty pet retailers, and hardware stores. But they are also linked to thousands of reported pet poisonings, and they have stirred the ire of pet owners, the concern of veterinarians, and the attention of regulatory agencies.

Manufacturers and distributors of over-the-counter spot on treatments say the products are generally safe and effective when used properly, but they concede there are cats and dogs that either have a preexisting condition or an acute sensitivity to these treatments that leads to an illness.

The industry position, however, may dismiss safety concerns too casually. At least 1,600 pet deaths related to spot on treatments with pyrethroids were reported to the EPA over the last five years, according to an analysis of EPA pesticide incident exposure data by the Center for Public Integrity. That is about double the number of reported fatalities tied to similar treatments without pyrethroids, such as Frontline and Advantage -- although these products also have critics.

Pyrethroid spot ons also account for more than half of "major" pesticide pet reactions reported to EPA over the last five years -- that is, those incidents involving serious medical reactions such as brain damage, heart attacks, and violent seizures. In contrast, non-pyrethroid spot on treatments accounted for only about 6 percent of all major incidents.

In the last five years, the EPA received a total of more than 25,000 reports of pet pesticide reactions of every sort -- fatal, major, moderate, and minor -- to over-the-counter pyrethroid spot on products. This compares to 10,500 reports of all pet incidents related to shampoos, powders, sprays, collars, dips, mousses, lotions, and towels. This analysis does not take into account how much of each product was used over the last five years as the EPA does not have that information.

The EPA cautions that it does not confirm the authenticity of these reports and most of the claims come from consumers and not trained toxicologists. The EPA uses the database to observe broad trends and to identify significant spikes in incidents for specific products and chemicals.
Warning Signs

A few websites, run by pet owners, specialize in educating people on the dangers of over-the-counter spot on treatments. Almost every day someone posts a new horror story, often involving a late-night emergency trip to the vet. "I cannot stop crying knowing that if I hadn't put that on them then they would still be here playing and loving as they always did before," reads one post about a woman's loss of two kittens in October.

imageEllie, a mini dachshund from La Vernia, Texas, suffered chemical burns where Bio Spot flea and tick drops were applied to her back. Credit: Michele Worcester.

The concentrations of pyrethroids in over-the-counter spot on pet treatments range from a 40 percent to an 85 percent solution, eight to 17 times stronger than the strongest pyrethroid product currently approved for use on humans. Neither the EPA, which generally regulates topically applied products, nor the Food and Drug Administration, which generally regulates orally applied pet products, has a product registered for human application containing a pyrethroid concentration above 5 percent, and that FDA-approved product requires a doctor's prescription. In fact, the Sergeant's Gold Squeeze-On for Dogs warning reads: "Harmful if swallowed or absorbed through skin," while the application portion of the label directs people to apply the treatment "to the dog's skin."

But these high concentrations may be necessary in pet products because pets are more apt to come in contact with fleas and ticks, according to Margaret Rice, chief of the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs registration branch. Some human products, like the 5 percent permethrin shampoo, also call for more of the product to be applied than the just under one ounce in the spot on treatments.

Pyrethroid toxicity targets nerve and muscle cells in pets, according to a study published in The Veterinary Journal in June 2008. The study found that dermal exposure by application to the skin or coat is the most common route of toxic exposure, potentially causing hyperexcitability, tremors, profuse salivation, and seizures. The seizures can result in brain damage or, less frequently, death.

Representatives of Central LifeSciences, the parent company of Farnam, the distributor of Bio Spot, said that they could not discuss the death of Wings because their investigation of the incident is still underway. The company said reports of adverse reactions are rare, about three of every 10,000 doses for cat products and five of every 10,000 doses for dog products. These numbers include incidents that resulted from misapplication and preexisting medical conditions, according to Central LifeSciences. "Bio Spot Spot On Flea & Tick Control for Dogs has met all applicable EPA registration requirements and is approved for topical use on dogs," the company said in a letter they sent in July to one unhappy customer whose dog had recently died.

"Even if it is owner error much of the time, something is not working the way it should be," said Stephanie Shain, director of outreach for the Humane Society of the United States.

Hartz Mountain Corp. representatives said via e-mail that the active ingredient in the company's spot on dog treatments, the pyrethroid d-phenothrin, and the active ingredient in their cat product that kills adult fleas, the pyrethroid etofenprox, are categorized as least toxic by the EPA, as opposed to the active ingredient in Frontline, fipronil, and the active ingredient in Advantage, imidacloprid, which, while much less concentrated, are rated as moderately toxic. Sergeant's cat spot on treatments also contain etofenprox, but the company has spot on dog products that contain cyphenothrin and products that contain permethrin, moderately toxic pyrethroids.

Another possible explanation for the number of incidents is that consumers often misuse flea and tick products, causing the sickness that pet owners later blame on the treatments, said Jennifer Windrum, a spokeswoman for Sergeant's. "Pet owners feel incredibly guilty if they misapply it to their pet," Windrum said. "It's easier to blame a company." Common misapplications include applying more powerful dog products to cats, applying the product where the pet can lick it, and using a treatment meant for a large animal on a small one. The directions on these products include a description of where to apply, sometimes a diagram, and if it's a dog product, multiple warnings not to it use on cats.

Forest Desmond and his wife Marilynn received a letter from Sergeant's offering to pay their $125 vet bill after they applied Sergeant's Gold Squeeze-On for Dogs to their five dogs. The letter from Sergeant's also stated that the company believed the dogs may have licked the product off each other, a violation of the application instructions. "The Sergeant's Gold Squeeze-On for Dogs is for external use only and has several warnings on the package indicating such," the letter says. The product's label does not instruct consumers to keep dogs separated after treatment, but Sergeant's has submitted a request to the EPA to have the label changed. Sergeant's "Look at the Label" website already recommends people separate their pets after application.

"What they're trying to say is the dogs licked it off each other and thereby took it in internally, but they didn't lick it off, it burned their skin," Marilynn Desmond said. "My response to that is they're trying to shift the blame from the producer to the user. If this had been my first dog, I might have fallen for that."

The authors of the study in The Veterinary Journal agree that misuse of pyrethroid products is often the cause of illnesses, although they also point out that accidental ingestion by mouth or during grooming is another common exposure route. "The best way to avoid serious problems is by educating pet owners to use products strictly according to label directions," the study says. "Veterinarians must advise clients using flea care products to read and follow label instructions completely before applying them on or around their pets." The rub here, some veterinarians say, is pyrethroid spot on treatments are over-the-counter products, easily purchased without consulting a veterinarian.

Michael Murphy, a veterinarian and toxicologist at the University of Minnesota, speaking for the American Veterinary Medical Association, said he rarely hears of pet reactions to spot on treatments, and when he does it's usually because a consumer applied a stronger dog product to a cat. But for some pet advocates, the misapplication explanation misses the point. The Humane Society of the United States has heard this reasoning before, but still recommends pet owners avoid over-the-counter spot on products and only use treatments recommended by veterinarians, according to Stephanie Shain, the organization's director of outreach. "With the number of complaints we get it seems like an extraordinarily high rate of problems," she said. "Even if it is owner error much of the time, something is not working the way it should be. I think at the very least there need to be much stronger warnings on those products cautioning pet owners about the dangers involved with using them."

Others express similar concerns. "Sometimes I wonder why it's still approved," said Mark Grossman, a co-owner and veterinarian of Roanoke Island Animal Clinic and a toxicology consultant for the Veterinary Information Network. "They can't get it out there without the EPA approving it. Apparently they say if they do enough tests, it's still OK. In real life though, I think we're seeing more problems than we should."

Paying the Bills

After Samantha Ribble's English bulldog, Bella, and pug, Chloe, developed oozing sores where she placed drops of Sergeant's Gold Squeeze on for Dogs, she asked Sergeant's to pay her veterinarian bill, $309. Without admitting any liability, Sergeant's agreed to pay the bill, on the condition that Ribble sign a release that read as follows: "I agree not to make any oral or written communication which disparages or has the effect of damaging the reputation of or otherwise working in any way to the detriment of Sergeant's. This Release shall inure the benefit of Sergeant's heirs, legal representatives, successors, and assigns and shall bind me and my heirs, legal representatives, successors, and assigns." In the same letter, Sergeant's notes that its products are closely regulated by the EPA and tested in "accordance with EPA rules and regulations in order to ensure that the products are safe."

This is true. The EPA approved the company's pyrethroid spot on treatments just as it has approved all spot on treatments, but the agency has a history of approving pet products in the past only to pull them from the market later. The EPA approved the use of chlorpyrifos products, cancelled for use on pets in 2001; diazinon products, cancelled for use on pets in 2001; and phosmet products, cancelled for use on pets by 2004. The products were approved, defended aggressively by the chemical industry, and then yanked off the market. They were largely replaced by pyrethroid products, which are generally thought to be less acutely toxic.

Even pyrethroid pet products, however, have been approved and then pulled. In 2000, the EPA received a rash of reports from cat owners concerning Hartz Mountain Corp.'s Advanced Care Once a Month Flea & Tick Drops for Cats, a spot on treatment containing the pyrethroid d-phenothrin. The agency received reports of cats losing their hair, salivating uncontrollably, experiencing tremors, and sometimes dying. Judy Van Wyk of Rhode Island filed a lawsuit against Hartz in November 2001 on behalf of pet owners whose cats had reacted to Hartz cat drops. The complaint alleged that "Hartz has also known since at least March 2001 that adverse reactions in cats to the Drops is a common problem." The suit was voluntarily withdrawn in November 2002, which may indicate an out-of-court settlement, but neither Hartz nor Van Wyk would comment on the case.

Three years later, after the company and the agency experimented unsuccessfully with stronger warning labels, the EPA entered into negotiations with Hartz Mountain Corp. and the company agreed to stop selling the product.

"When we register these products, we feel they're safe," said Marion Johnson, branch chief of the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs registration division.

Rice, chief of the EPA's Office of Pesticides registration branch, said the agency knows it has had problems with these products in the past. Still the EPA holds the position, as with all products registered by the agency, that pyrethroid-based spot on treatments are not harmful if consumers follow label instructions. The 25,000 reported incidents alone will not change this conclusion, Rice said. The EPA is investigating pyrethroid incidents, involving both humans and pets, and when it finishes this process -- the EPA does not have a target date yet for doing so -- it may make regulatory changes, but until then the agency stands by its conclusion. "Our decisions to register these products and compounds are done with significant data," said Marion Johnson, branch chief of the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs registration division. "When we register these products, we feel they're safe."

So safe in fact that Johnson said the EPA does not expect any pets will have a sensitivity to spot on products leading to an illness; the incident reports, in Johnson's view, are not at all definitive. Manufacturers, for their part, do acknowledge the existence of sensitive cats and dogs. "There is a certain percentage of dogs out there that, just like with humans, will have an allergic reaction no matter what," Windrum, the Sergeant's spokeswoman, said. Less than 1 percent of sales result in an adverse reaction when the product is used as directed by the label, she said.

The EPA cannot make its own assessment because unlike the regulations directing the FDA's approval of human products, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act does not require pet products to undergo field trials prior to approval. So the agency can only require less extensive testing, often only on one breed of dog or cat. This makes it difficult to predict the effects on the broader population of users.

The EPA also considers the need consumers have to control fleas and ticks on their pets and the benefit provided by low-cost pyrethroid spot ons when making decisions about these products. The over-the-counter pyrethroid spot ons are typically half the price of Frontline and Advantage.

EPA scientists continue to monitor the safety of pet pyrethroids. In November, several EPA employees at the Office of Research and Development authored a piece in BMC Genomics, an online journal that publishes peer-reviewed articles, that found exposure to the pyrethroids permethrin and deltamethrin in young rats "could result in detrimental effects on neurological function later in life." The study found this was a possibility even using doses of permethrin that do not cause immediate, acute symptoms. The authors of the article suggested many other avenues of research -- including examining the effects of other pyrethroids on neurological function.

The EPA also hopes to improve the quality of incident reports through an online reporting system for veterinarians that began this fall. In addition, the agency is analyzing pet incidents to identify patterns that may lead to additional labeling or further regulatory action, and reviewing the process of approving pet products to see if changes are warranted.

"We need to make sound scientific decisions," Johnson said. "On the one hand we have the data that says this product might be safe and on the other we have incidents that say it might not be."

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