Law Passed to Curb Pet Antifreeze Deaths

April 1, 2009 | By Amy Lieberman | Category: Care & Safety | 228 comments
Tags: care & safety, crime & law, cats, dogs

Though it smells sweet, antifreeze can prove fatal for pets. (ZT Pet News Photo Illustration)

Law Passed to Curb Pet Antifreeze Deaths: Virginia is the latest state to lessen the lethal blow a few licks of antifreeze can deliver to curious pets. Nearly 10,000 pets die every year from the sweet tasting toxic fluid. Watch Zootoo Pet News' previous video coverage on this issue above.

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine signed a bill on Monday that requires antifreeze, a toxic substance, to be spiked with an bitter tasting agent, designated to ward off unsuspecting pets.

Antifreeze kills approximately 10,000 pets a year, says Sara Amundson, executive director of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, noting that animals find the liquid's sweet taste alluring.

The bill was sponsored by U.S. Representative Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), who introduced the bill in January, after a constituent relayed her first hand experience with antifreeze's potential toxic effects.

"One of my constituents, Yvonne Royster, came in and told me that she had learned about the accidental poisoning of two dogs on her postal route," Cox said. "She was very concerned, and I thought, 'Let's take a look at this, and see if there is a way to stop these animals from dying.' "

Virginia is now one of seven other states -- including Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, Arizona, Tennessee, Maine and California -- that has adopted such a measure in recent years.

The law specifically calls for all imported car engine coolants/antifreeze that have more than 10 percent ethylene glycol also contain denatonium benzoate, a notoriously bitter, yet innocuous, chemical compound.

Lawmakers and animal welfare advocates hope this inclusion can help cut high numbers of antifreeze-related deaths, Cox says. Two-thirds of veterinarians across the country report seeing at least one animal afflicted by antifreeze poisoning each year.

"The numbers were really surprising," Cox said. "Just very, very shocking statistics."

Ingestion of ethlyne glycol will first affect one's central nervous system, then can eventually lead to kidney and liver failure.

"For a 25-pound dog, it can take just as much as a few licks for this stuff to take effect," Amundson said, adding that the 10,000 reported deaths are a "low estimate."

Owners' failure to properly and securely store the toxic substance accounts to the majority of lethal antifreeze cases, Amundson said. Following ingestion, animals frequently exhibit lethargy and sluggishness. The symptoms are vague enough, though, that they sometimes go undetected.

"Even if a pet dies from antifreeze, it doesn't mean that a guardian knows why the animal died or what transpired," Amundson explained. "In some situations, animals begin to feel ill and go off to die somewhere else, or cases just go unreported."

Oregon first passed a law to make antifreeze more unappealing nearly 15 years ago, Amundson said -- the remaining states approved like bills more recently.

There are three main plants that manufacture the product in this country -- those plants now set aside specific batches of antifreeze to ship off to states like Oregon, California, and now, Virginia.

Amundson says that as more lawmakers realize the helpful nature of this law, as well as its relatively non-controversial nature, more states will push for their own bills.

This situation is unique, Amundson says, as the main manufacturer of antifreeze has worked cooperatively with lawmakers and the Humane Society of the United States, among other organizations, in furthering the bill.

"We don't want to forget that the actual industry has been largely responsible for the passage of this bill, and that is a really special, rare situation, where the corporations and animal protection advocates were able to come together," she said. "It's been a wonderful, collaborative effort."

To view Zootoo Pet News' original article on antifreeze's potentially lethal effects, watch our video, posted above.

Comments (179)

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daryl b.
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daryl b.
4 years ago

to little to late for all the animals and children that have died. this has been going on for so many years that something should have been done years ago

Good Point | Reply ›

jackie
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jackie
4 years ago

I hope this spreads all over people dont let there pets near it on pourpose accidents happen unfortunately this is a very costly accident to the pets

Good Point | Reply ›

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