Common Flea Collar Linked to Nearly 1,700 Pet Deaths and 1,000 Human Illnesses: Report

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A new report published jointly by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting and USA Today links a popular flea collar brand to nearly 1,700 animal deaths in the U.S.

Seresto, a common flea and tick collar for dogs and cats, has allegedly been tied to thousands of pet deaths, tens of thousands of animal injuries, and thousands of human illnesses, the report stated, citing documents from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Since Seresto collars — which are developed by Bayer and now sold by Elanco — were introduced in 2012, the EPA has received incident reports of at least 1,698 pet deaths linked to the collars but has not issued a warning about any Seresto products, according to the report.

Through June 2020, the EPA documents reportedly show there were more than 75,000 reported incidents related to the collars, 1,000 of which involved human harm.

When reached for comment about the report's findings, the EPA provided the following statement.

"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. If side effects develop, the label tells the consumer to consult the pet's veterinarian immediately."

Seresto collars include small amounts of pesticides that are released onto the animal, per the report. The amount of pesticide dispersed is supposed to kill fleas and ticks but be safe for pets.

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In the report, New Jersey dog owner Rhonda Bomwell recounted how last June, her 9-year-old Papillon service dog named Pierre suffered a seizure just one day after wearing a Bayer Seresto collar.

Bomwell attempted to save Pierre by giving him CPR and then rushing him to the hospital. The canine died before he could receive medical attention.

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Karen McCormack, a retired EPA employee, said in the report that the agency has been aware of the dangers of Seresto collars but has yet to notify the public.

"The EPA appears to be turning a blind eye to this problem, and after seven years of an increasing number of incidents, they are telling the public that they are continuing to monitor the situation," said McCormack. "But I think this is a significant problem that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later."

McCormack also said that the collars have the most incidents of any pesticide pet product she's ever seen.

In response to the report, Keri McGrath, the director of Elanco Communications, provided the following statement to PEOPLE.

"There is no established link between death and exposure to the active ingredients contained in Seresto. It is critically important to understand that a report is not an indication of cause.

The numbers referenced in the original article represent 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. Since its initial approval in 2012, more than 25 million Seresto collars have protected dogs and cats in the U.S. from fleas and ticks.

And, reporting rates have actually been decreasing over the life of the product. That said, we continuously monitor the safety of our products on an on-going basis."

Bayer did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment on the recent report regarding Seresto collars.