Absent safety standards for pet toys, Problem Solvers provide tips to protect your furry friends

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Cats chew and claw and pounce. They can be rough on their toys. That’s something Marie Vest learned in a scary way.

“I basically just freaked out,” said Vest of Liberty, Mo. “I don't know how I got it out of her mouth, but somehow I got her mouth open and got it out.”

Vest’s cat Cally had torn apart a Jackson Galaxy brand cat toy called "Ground Prey" that hung from a wand and was in the shape of a caterpillar. Vest, who says her cat is a big fan of the Jackson Galaxy toys, had just purchased the toy a day before the scary incident.

She noticed that the yarn on the caterpillar had already started unraveling and left the room to get some thread to fix it. When she returned a few minutes later, Vest says she found her cat starting to choke.

“She somehow had broken the toy in two and she had part of it -- part of a plastic piece -- in her mouth and she was trying to swallow it,” Vest said.

Upset, Vest immediately contacted Chewy where she had bought the toy. Chewy was quick to offer her a refund for the $9 toy, but Vest was more concerned about the potential danger than the money.

“I wanted them to understand my concern that she could have died,” Vest said.

She sent a critical review of the toy to the website asking that it be taken off of the market. She said her review never posted, but FOX 4 Problem Solvers found other critical reviews about the same toy that were posted on the Chewy website.

Those posts included warnings such as: "Don't buy" and this review after the toy broke multiple times: "I ended up getting rid of the toy and finding something safer."

Even Chewy.com posted a warning about the toy: “Ingestion of this product can result in serious injury.” But the toy is still for sale in major retail stores and on Chewy’s website.

Pet toy expert Kristen Levine said she’s not surprised.

“There isn't any specific regulation when it comes to pet toys,” Levine said.

There are no federal safety standards or mandatory recalls. Plus, many pet toys are made in China, raising even more concerns about the quality.

So how do you pick a safe pet toy?

“First and foremost you have to use your common sense and you have to use the knowledge that you have about your pet at home,” Levine said.
Is your pet a chewer or particularly aggressive with toys? If so, buy toys that appear difficult to tear apart.

Even stuffed toys can be dangerous, because pets can ingest the stuffing.

If you are unsure about a toy, don’t hesitate to email the manufacturer. Ask about the company’s safety standards. Some pet toy companies, including www.safemadepet.com, boast that they follow the same standards required for kids toys.

“I would ask them if they have ever had any recalls,” Levine said. “I would ask if they have ever had complaints about a particular toy.”

Checking reviews online may also answer your questions.

Petmate manufactures the toys for the Jackson Galaxy Line. It strongly disagreed that the caterpillar toy is unsafe and said it was unaware of any problems.

However, it told FOX 4 Problem Solvers that it has stopped making the toy and replaced it with a newer model. In fact, FOX 4 could no longer find the toy on Petmate’s website, but the toy is being sold by other retailers who carry Petmate products. That’s something that worries Marie Vest.

“People are not as concerned about animals as they are children, but I think they should be,” Vest said.

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