During Subcommittee Hearing, Experts and Pet Owners Call on EPA to Take Dangerous Seresto Collar Off the Market
Washington, D.C. (June 16, 2022)—Today, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, held a hearing to examine the findings of the Subcommittee’s staff report entitled “Seresto Flea and Tick Collars: Examining Why a Product Linked to More than 2,500 Pet Deaths Remains on the Market,” revealing that the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) knew of the dangers of the Seresto flea and tick collar for several years, but failed to take action to protect pets and their owners.
“As our witnesses today will testify, there’s no perfect, risk-free way of keeping our pets safe from every possible source of harm. That’s the sad reality. But it is still possible to do all we can to protect the health and well-being of every pet. Sadly, our investigation has found evidence that the EPA and Elanco have failed to live up to that standard,” said Chairman Krishnamoorthi in his opening statement.
During the first panel, the Subcommittee heard testimony from Faye and Omarion Hemsley, and Thomas Maiorino—all owners of deceased pets. The second panel featured testimony from Jeffrey Simmons, President and Chief Executive Officer of Elanco Animal Health; Karen McCormack, former Scientist, Policy Analyst, and Communications Officer in the Office of Pesticide Programs at the Environmental Protection Agency; and Nathan Donley, Ph.D, Environmental Health Science Director at the Center for Biological Diversity.
Members heard stories from pet owners about how the Seresto collar initially caused their dogs to become lethargic and exhibit erratic behavior, and how they believe the collar eventually contributed to their pets’ deaths.
- Ms. Hemsley described the effect the Seresto collar had on her dog, Tigger: “None of my other three dogs had the Seresto collar. And none of my other dogs got sick or died. I’m convinced that it was the Seresto collar that killed Tigger and that if he did not have the collar, Tigger would still be alive today.”
- Mr. Maiorino explained that, after affixing the Seresto collar to the neck of his dog, Rooney, the dog began exhibiting allergy symptoms. After the vet was unable to determine the cause following “several visits and multiple medications,” Maiorino explained that “Rooney’s behavior became more erratic.” In October 2020, Rooney suffered a seizure that caused irreversible damage, and “the family decided the most humane thing would be to put Rooney to sleep at the age of 9.”
Members and witnesses discussed the flawed EPA scientific review process and the agency’s failure to adequately regulate the Seresto collar despite the significant number of pet incidents linked to the collar over many years.
- In his opening statement, Dr. Donley explained that: “The EPA has no trigger for review of any pesticide product no matter how much harm is being reported. Because the agency has no mandated trigger for reviewing pesticides like Seresto, rather than choosing to use incident reporting data to inform a robust regulatory process and take dangerous products off the market, the EPA routinely chooses to do nothing at all.”
- In response to a question from Rep. Johnson concerning the true scope of incidents related to Seresto, Dr. Donley explained that the nature of the EPA’s reporting system inherently underestimates the true number of incidents: “[P]esticide incident reporting is far lower than the actual incidents themselves. For some pesticides, the reporting rate is as low as 4%, so only 1 in 25 harms for the pesticide will actually get reported to the proper authorities. So, you’re actually looking at numbers that are drastically underestimating the true scope of harm here.”
- In response to a question from Chairman Krishnamoorthi about why EPA employees would send emails to each other expressing a need to take action regarding Seresto collars, Ms. McCormack explained that “a number of the scientists, and this is not unusual, feel that the decisionmakers are not considering the science, and they are making decisions based on political reasons.”
- In response to a question from Rep. Johnson, Ms. McCormack contrasted the EPA’s flawed review process to the more comprehensive process undertaken by Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), noting that she thought the PMRA’s analysis was “very scientific.” She continued: “It was not only based on incident data and sales data, it was based on the toxicity of the two pesticides in Seresto. . . . But unfortunately EPA decided they would keep monitoring the situation but they didn’t give a deadline as to when they would stop monitoring and do something about the pesticide.”
Members highlighted Elanco’s misleading reporting to EPA concerning adverse incidents linked to the collar and questioned the company’s CEO about the company’s continuing denial that the Seresto collar poses an increased risk to pets and its refusal to take action to increase the safety of the Seresto family of products.
- In response to a question by Rep. Porter regarding warnings on Seresto collars in other countries that label the product as “highly toxic” and “poison,” Mr. Simmons confirmed that the label on Seresto collars in the United States—despite those collars having the same active ingredients—does not have that language. Mr. Simmons also acknowledged that, notwithstanding EPA’s findings, the Seresto label in the United States does not warn pet owners about adverse effects beyond relatively minor symptoms, let alone the possibility of death. Mr. Simmons indicated that Elanco has no intention of changing the U.S. label and stated that Elanco continues to believe that the risks associated with the product are “reasonable.”
- In response to a question from Chairman Krishnamoorthi about why the percentage of pet deaths linked to the Seresto collars as calculated by Elanco are so much lower than calculations by both EPA and PMRA, Dr. Donley explained: “This is what we commonly see, quite frankly, when the regulated industry is doing their own research. It commonly finds that their products are safer than when government agencies or academic scientists take on a similar analysis.” He continued, in response to another question: “It’s very common for pesticide companies to hire consultants and to pay those companies money to do analysis for them. This is very common. ... There is a rich amount of literature showing that if you have a financial conflict of interest—if you are profiting off of something—you are going to find that the product is generally much safer than an independent scientist would, for instance.”
- In response to a question from Rep. Brown, Mr. Simmons acknowledged that he would “take accountability” for Elanco’s year-long delay in submitting nearly 11,000 incident reports to EPA in a timely fashion, calling it “unacceptable for our organization” but blaming the wait on an apparent change in submission methods due to COVID-19.