The MSPCA has asked that we share this important information with our TAILS audience as they know everyone can all make a difference in this effort.
There’s a bill pending now to update the antifreeze bittering law that was passed last session; here’s an article about it that contains a link to the MSPCA page, where people can take action to support S.88. The formal legislative session ends July 31; it would be fantastic to see this legislation make progress before then.
As of 2011, Massachusetts law requires the addition of a bittering agent to retail containers of antifreeze to deter ingestion and poisonings of animals and people. However, many people get their cars serviced at garages, which use wholesale containers of antifreeze that are not treated with a bittering agent. Leaks of untreated antifreeze still result in poisonings. In fact, Senator Brewer filed S.88 on behalf of a constituent whose dog died after drinking out of a puddle that contained antifreeze which had leaked from a vehicle. Therefore, this pending legislation would require that wholesale containers, such as those used at automotive service stations, also contain a bittering agent to deter ingestion.
Most automotive antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, which is highly toxic to animals and humans and can produce life-threatening kidney damage, even in small amounts. Unfortunately, the sweet smell and taste of antifreeze is appealing to animals. Just one tablespoon of 50-50 diluted antifreeze can be lethal to a 10-pound cat, and as little as 4 ounces could be fatal to a 20-pound dog. Leaks on driveways, in parking lots, on farms, and in natural areas like parks and campgrounds can easily contain enough ethylene glycol to kill both domestic and wild animals who ingest the sweet fluid.
A survey of Massachusetts veterinarians conducted by the MSPCA found that 67.9% of the respondents reported treating animals for antifreeze ingestion. Further, this group reported a high mortality rate due to the speed at which antifreeze poisoning causes irreparable damage to an animal’s internal organs. Across the country, The Humane Society of the United States estimates that at least 10,000 companion animals die from antifreeze poisoning annually; the number of wild animals poisoned is not known, but is thought to be quite significant.
The MSPCA believes that prevention is the most effective way of avoiding the suffering of animals and their human caretakers/guardians from antifreeze ingestion. One component of prevention is the addition of a bitter-tasting deterrent agent such as denatonium benzoate. S.88 would require the addition this substance to wholesale containers of antifreeze, to make it unpalatable to animals. Denatonium benzoate is already used in other household products, would not significantly increase the cost of antifreeze, and does not have any known long-term negative environmental or health effects.
Of course, it will remain important for animal welfare and public health officials to warn people about the dangers of antifreeze ingestion whether it contains a bittering agent or not. We agree that public education about the dangers of antifreeze poisoning should continue, along with monitoring and documentation of poisoning incidents.
S.88 received a favorable report and is now pending in the Senate Ethics and Rules committee. See www.mspca.org/antifreeze for more information and to take action.