Popular Flea and Tick Collar Has Been Linked to Nearly 1,700 Pet Deaths: Report

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A day after wearing the collar, Pierre, a 9-year-old Papilion, had suffered a seizure, collapsed and stopped breathing.

A popular flea collar that is labeled "vet recommended" and designed "to kill and repel fleas and ticks" has been linked to nearly 1,700 pet deaths, according to US Environmental Protection Agency documents. A bombshell investigative report claims that the EPA knew the risks and reportedly did nothing about it.

Seresto, one of the most popular flea and tick collars in the country, has been linked to hundreds of pet deaths, tens of thousands of injured animals and hundreds of harmed humans U.S. Environmental Protection Agency documents show, according to the independent nonprofit newsroom The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting and USA Today.

Since the collar sold by Elanco, was first introduced in 2012, the EPA has received incident reports of at least 1,698 related pet deaths And, through June 2020, the EPA has received more than 75,000 incident reports related to the collars, including nearly 1,000 involving human harm, USA Today reported. 

Karen McCormack, a retired EPA employee who worked in a dual role as a scientist and communications officer, for the agency, told the Midwest Center for Investigative reporting, that the agency had known about these incidents for years but had “turned a blind eye” to this problem, according to the report.

“After seven years of an increasing number of incidents, they are telling the public that they are continuing to monitor the situation,” said McCormack, who said that the collars had the most incidents of any pesticide pet product she’s ever seen. "I think this is a significant problem that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.”

Rhonda Bomwell’s service dog, Pierre, a 9-year-old Papillon, and beloved member of her family, was allegedly one of the fatalities. Bomwell, said she had purchased the collar at a store near her New Jersey home. A day later, she said Pierre had suffered a seizure, collapsed and stopped breathing.

One of the roles of the EPA is to regulate products that contain pesticides. 

An EPA spokesperson told USA Today that the two pesticides in Seresto have “been found eligible for continued registration,” based on the best available science and incident data.

“No pesticide is completely without harm, but EPA ensures that there are measures on the product label that reduce risk,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “The product label is the law, and applicators must follow label directions. Some pets, however, like some humans, are more sensitive than others and may experience adverse symptoms after treatment.”

Meanwhile, The Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit organization that monitors the activities of the EPA, as part of its work to protect endangered species, was the organization that provided the federal documents to The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting that showed that thousands of pets were being harmed by the Seresto collar.

Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at The Center for Biological Diversity and an expert on pesticide regulation, said that the incident data creates lots of questions about EPA processes and the number of cases were ‘underreported,’  cited USA Today.

“My God, if this doesn't trigger a concern, that's a fundamental problem with the process,” Donley said. “The fact that EPA has not done anything to alert the public that there might be an issue here, it strikes me as bordering on criminal.”

He added: “The EPA has this system in place to compile information and it’s just collecting dust in some database.”

An Elanco spokesperson told Inside Edition that the company takes “adverse events – and the health and well-being of pets - very seriously.”

“All adverse events related to Seresto use, product related or not, are collected, evaluated, and reported to authorities,” Keri McGrath Elanco spokesperson said. “It’s really important we put this into context. First, it is critically important to understand that a report is not an indication of cause. What those numbers represent is the number of reports received, and do not reflect causality. So, if a dog were to be wearing a collar and experience any sort of adverse event, the collar would be mentioned in the report. Drawing a causal link from individual incident reports is misleading.”

McGrath also pointed out that reporting rates have actually been decreasing over the life of the product citing that the company “continuously monitors the safety of their products on an on-going basis.” 

She highlighted a few important facts. For one, since its initial approval in 2012, she said, Seresto has protected more than 25 million dogs from fleas and ticks. She said the 2020 incident report rate for all adverse events related to Seresto is a fraction of 1% of users - defined by the WHO (World Health Organization) as “uncommon.”

She added that the significant majority of these incidents relate to non-serious effects such as application site disorders – reddening of the skin or hair loss below the collar. And, that is important for consumers to make sure they’re purchasing collars from an authorized retailer.

An EPA spokesperson told Inside Edition Digital that “under the Biden-Harris Administration EPA has returned to its core mission, which includes protecting our pets’ health.”

“We take every incident reported seriously and review these data to see whether action is necessary. EPA encourages pet owners to read the entire label before using the pesticide product and follow all directions carefully, including monitoring your pet after application to see if side effects occur,” the spokesperson said. “If side effects develop, the label tells the consumer to consult the pet’s veterinarian immediately.”