Parents of human children can rest easy knowing that their child’s toys, clothing, and furniture had to meet rigorous federal standards for safety. For example, under the federal toy safety standard, ASTM F963-11, toys intended for use by children 12 years and younger must be tested by a third party for things like lead, hazardous substances, and flammability. This also means that if there’s ever a problem with a product, it can be recalled through federal safety regulations.
For pet parents, however, it’s a teensy bit more complicated. (And by “teensy,” I mean a lot!) That’s because there are no federal regulations in place to ensure that certain standards are met for pet toys and gear. Unlike pet food, which is regulated by the FDA, it’s left up to the individual pet industry manufacturers to establish standards for their own products, test them, and issue a recall if necessary.
Now, before you swear off manufactured pet products and begin searching Pinterest for DIY dog toys and cat condos, there are ways to help determine whether that next purchase you make for Fluffy is safe. Just reading labels and perusing the company’s website will give you most of the information you need to make an informed decision.
Where is it manufactured?
Although exact numbers are hard to come by, a sizable percentage of pet products are manufactured in China. And as most of us have seen in the news, China doesn’t have the best reputation for quality control. That doesn’t mean you should skip Chinese-made entirely, since many manufacturers have their own processes and regulations in place. But you may want to follow up with the company to get more information.
Is it suitable for children?
More and more manufacturers are making pet toys that adhere to federal toy safety standards. Look for toys that specifically state that they meet ASTM F963-11 standards, and avoid those that with a “not suitable for children” disclaimer. The very best choices are those that have been approved for children three years of age and younger.
Does it meet California’s standards?
Under California’s Prop 65, manufacturers must notify Californians about products that contain significant amounts of chemicals that are known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm. For this reason, think carefully before purchasing products that are prohibited in California or have a label with a warning for California residents.
Even if a company states on its website that they do rigorous testing, it can pay to do a little additional sleuthing. Send an email and ask for the type of testing they do, whether it’s done by a third party or in-house, and what standards are used to achieve a pass or fail grade. Also, be sure to ask how they handle any problems that may arise with their product.
Inspect the toy personally.
Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to inspect the product yourself before giving it to your pet.
- Does it put off a strong chemical smell?
- Is it heavily dyed?
- Are there pieces that might be easily chewed off or fall off, like strings, ribbons, plastic eyes/noses, etc.?
- Are there sharp, ragged or broken edges?
- Is apparel labeled as inflammable/fire retardant and free of buttons, ribbons, etc.?
- Is the toy with filled with potentially dangerous material like nut shells and polystyrene beads?
- Are pet bowls and feeders tested to FDA standards to ensure heavy metals don’t leech into food and water?
Remember, no product – no matter how well made or extensively tested – is ever 100% safe. Periodically check all pet products and throw out any that become broken, torn apart, or otherwise pose a potential health hazard.
With just a little caution and a bit of research, it is possible to find wonderful, fun, safe products that your pet will enjoy and you can feel good about!