Toying with Trouble

WSVN — For a dog or cat, a toy can provide hours of amusement. They chase them, lick them, chew them and, in some cases, downright devour them.

Evelyn Garrison: "She is still a puppy, and she chews on everything."

Evelyn Garrison loves her puppy Bobby-O like a child, and she's constantly spoiling her with new toys.

Evelyn Garrison: "She has tons and tons of toys. They need to play. It's like a kid."

But our pets could be playing a dangerous game. Since June, there's been one recall after another of children's toys made in China all because the paint on them contained dangerous levels of lead.

But those aren't the only toys being manufactured in China. Most of the toys we give our pets are also made there and many are painted.

Evelyn Garrison: "I never thought of any danger as far as the toys were concerned."

We went to several local pet and discount retail stores where we bought squeaky toys, a dog bowl and a collar with a painted bell all made in China. We took all of the items to Pro-Lab to have each one tested for lead.

Dr. John Shane: "We tested them for lead, and they ran from 25 parts per million to 48 parts per million. All of these amounts are low, but they are still measurable."

Every item we had tested came back positive for lead, though the levels were well below what is considered safe for humans. However, many dogs are smaller or weigh less than children and, just like kids, lead can cause developmental problems in our pets.

Dr. Mieke Baks Siegel: "They affect the development of the brain and nervous system, especially in growing animals. It will make them age faster, and it might make doggie Alzheimer's set in faster."

We contacted the retailers which sold the lead tainted toys. One told us they conducted independent tests of their toys for lead and were aware that some they sell contained lead but say they continued to sell the items because the levels were below those considered safe for humans.

The spokesman also pointed out no government agency regulates or tests for lead in pet toys, so they have no guidelines to go on. Vets say, the problem with using human guidelines is that, unlike kids, dogs often consume their toys.

Dr. Mieke Baks Siegel: "I certainly wouldn't want my own dog playing with toys and chewing on these toys."

And, over time, any lead level, no matter how small, can be a danger for a dog.

Dr. John Shane: "Since lead has a cumulative effect in the body, for pets especially, and small pets that chew, they begin to ingest these toys, and, lead, it builds up."

Our vets advise getting rid of painted toys or bowls that are chipped and made in China.

Dr. Mieke Baks Siegel: "Try and pick out toys made in the U.S. or Europe, not in China."

Bobbie O's toy box was filled with many China-made toys, and Evelyn isn't taking any chances.

Evelyn Garrison: "I'm just going to throw them all away. I'm not even going to ask any questions."

The only answer to make sure her dog is not toying with trouble and is around for years to come.

Evelyn Garrison: "My kids are going to kill me if I say this, but, yes, I do love her like a kid."

Craig Stevens: "The retailers we talked to said, they would support government regulation of pet toys, but they do believe what they have on their shelves right now is safe."