This past week in Mobile a 2 year old girl crawled out through a pet door and nearly drowned in the family swimming pool. Her mother had left her in front of the family TV long enough to go check on laundry. When she returned, her daughter was not there and her 7 year old brother spotted her in the pool. The family pulled her out and called 9-1-1. CPR was performed at the home by the paramedics and she was taken to the hospital. On last report she was in critical condition at the hospital. The only way she could have gotten out to the pool was through a pet door was all the other doors were locked and the alarm system was on.
A website has been created by Carol Ranfone who lost a 2year old son, Matthew, by drowning. She created http://www.petaccessdangers.org/ to provide access for the public to be aware of the problem. Her tragic story was followed by Good Moring America ABC News report on May 12, 2009. It is too bad that the Mobile family did not see that report or know of the website.
More than a hundred children have died or been seriously injured in the last decade after squeezing through tiny pet doors and getting into swimming pools or other dangerous places, new research has found. "What we see is a picture that’s emerging which shows that the pet door is a really serious hazard in a home that no one has really had on the radar screen," said Sean Kane, of Safety Research and Strategies. The pet door that the Rafones had contained no warning that young children could get through them. The news report also demonstrated the possibility of children getting through these rather small door. You can view it here. Click here to see the demonstration.
In most states the law requires that if there is a known hazard in the use of a product, the manufacturer is obligated to either ‘engineer’ out the hazard, guard against the hazard (like a guard over a pinch-point) and/or warn against the hazard.
The manufacturer of the door that Matthew went through also makes a pet with a remote device attached to a pet’s collar unlocks the door as the pet approaches. The door then locks again after the pet exits. In its marketing materials, the company touts that the electronic lock "will prevent children from leaving the home." I also read reports where some manufacturers supply a plate that go over the opening to prevent the pets access. Those certainly should be employed to keep children from gaining access.
If you have pet door and small children around, please take all safety steps you can to make sure they do not get out through the door undetected.
Civil litigation attorney Billy Cunningham practice concentrates on personal injury, wrongful death, nursing home abuse, business litigation, environmental law and insurance matters. He is licensed to practice in the state and federal courts of Alabama and Mississippi, as well as in the U.S. Court of Military Appeals, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and the Supreme Court of the United States.