Are Pet Toys Regulated?

Laws Regulating Pet Toys

There are virtually no federal or state laws, which expressly apply solely to the manufacture and sale of pet toys. However as a result of past consumer concerns it is possible that in the future there may be limitations on the amount of lead and/or other chemicals contained in pet toys. Below are some of the emerging issues and considerations to ensure your product is safe.
Although pet toys are “consumer goods” the US Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has stated that the agency does not have the resources or the mandate to regulate pet products unless a person is injured from the product.  The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008  gave the CPSC  additional authority to regulate childrens' products  including reducing allowable lead content, increasing funding for the CPSC,  and provisions for additional penalties for violations. Although no mention of pet products is made in the Act, a Committee report in the negotiations for the Act discussed whether the CPSC had the mandate to look at the safety of pet products and it may be an area of increasing focus.  Because there are no specific pet toy laws or regulations this Web Page discusses the requirements for similar products: childrens toys.

Because pet toys could be used by children, and are often in households with children present you  may chose to have your product meet the specifications set forth by the CPSC for lead and other hazards in children’s toys and other children’s products.  Compliance with this standard, or  similar standards may also be required by some retailers to ensure that products meet their specifications. However, note that these standards are  legally required for children’s products and are not legally required for pet products.

Another issue relating to pet toys is plastic softeners also known as phthalates.  Some consumers have expressed concern with these chemicals as many consider them endocrine disrupters.  Numerous states and foreign governments have begun to consider regulations regarding these chemicals solely with regard to children’s products, such as toys and baby bottles.

Phthalates and other plastic softeners

Phthlates have been getting a lot of attention with regard to children's toys and baby bottles. Phthalates, and associated chemicals such as bisphenol-a are often added to plastic products to make them more flexible. 

There is concern that this group of chemicals may cause reproductive problems and may be considered endocrine disruptors. Phthalates are regulated in numerous countries and the European Union, which banned the chemical in toys in 1999. Recently Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California signed the law that will ban the use of phthalates in toys designed for children under the age of 3.

The effect of phthalates in toys for pets has been studied.  The Danish Institute for Food and Veterinary Research sponsored by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency showed that toys for pets may be a source of phthalates. The Agency advises reducing the usage of these toys especially during gestation and in case of little puppies. . Another study confirmed  that toys and training devices are potential sources of exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals in pet dogs.

Whether regulation of phthalates will increase to the realm of pet toys is unknown.  What is known is that consumer groups are having an impact on the retailers who are choosing not to carry certain products with these chemicals. 

Lead Paint Issues:

During 2007 and 2008 after the pet food recalls and the recall of children's toys due to lead paint concerns, some journalists and consumer groups had pet toys tested to determine whether those toys contained lead.  Numerous news reports were circulated confirming that there were some pet toys on the market that had positive levels of lead. However, the toys tested that had levels of lead, the vast majority were not considered high levels under the standards set for children's' toys. See the following articles for their claimed findings. (Please note that not all of these articles are objective.)

During this period some retailers also began to require testing of products to see if they complied with the lead standard set for children's articles. Many retailers now require quality assurance testing for a variety of potential hazards.  The tester must ensure that all labeling requirements are met including for California's Proposition 65, and country of origin labeling and must test for lead and other safety concerns. These retailers may require standards that are greater than those required by regulation. If you are interested in testing your products APPA has a web page in the Regulatory Section of the APPA web site  that lists laboratories that will test pet products. Many of these will test pet toys to determine lead content as well as durability.

CPSC Lead Level Standards
The  CPSC has lead standards for children's products. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008  requires  the quantity of lead in children's products to be reduced through a phased in approach.  The law mandated a phased-in ban on lead in all children's products and  provided for changes  in how lead content in paint is tested and calculated.

Which products must meet this regulation?
According to the CPSC Information Sheet, "the ban covers paint or any other similar surface coating that contains more than 0.06% lead (lead containing paint). It also covers toys or other articles intended for use by children and furniture coated with lead-containing paint. Pieces of furniture such as beds, bookcases, chairs, chests, tables, dressers, and console televisions are covered by the regulation. Appliances such as ranges, refrigerators, and washers, fixtures such as built-in cabinets, window, and doors, and household products such as window shades and venetian blinds are not. While paints for boats and cars are not covered by the ban, products sold directly to consumers or which consumers use in homes, schools, hospitals, parks, playgrounds, and other areas are. Therefore, products intended for use by children and furniture located in these types of places may not have more than 0.06% lead when children or consumers will have direct access to the painted surface."

State Actions
A number of states have been taking actions to increase protections of chemicals in children's toys and other children's products.  Twenty states have or are contemplating laws that are in some cases stricter than what Congress envisions. 

Many states are also considering banning or limiting the use of Phthalates and other plastic softeners for children's toys and other products.