Hartz Mountain Corporation responds to Tulsa cat seizure story

Wednesday, June 25th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A response to a story the News on 6 brought you last week about a Tulsa family whose cat was rushed to emergency care, after the owners say they used Hartz Advanced Care flea and tick treatment for cats and their pet went into seizures.

A company spokesperson for Hartz Mountain Corporation is disputing our story, saying it unnecessarily alarmed viewers. The News on 6 reporter Heather Johnson takes another look.

Complaints about Hartz Advanced Care have been the subject of several media reports over the past two years. It was first brought to our attention last week when Tulsa cat owner Tim Davie told us his pet experienced violent side effects. Earlier this year, Hartz changed the application procedure and re-labeled the product with a stricter side effect warning.

We told you Hartz made these changes due to a class action lawsuit. An attorney for the company says the case never achieved class action status and the company made the changes voluntarily, months before the lawsuit was settled. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA sought an agreement with Hartz to make those changes based on thousands of adverse effects incidents investigated by the EPA.

Dr Albert Ahn with Hartz Mountain Corporation, "Well, what we have done is worked closely with the EPA to introduce the new application for our advanced care products for cats and the key difference here is we're going from a stripe on to a spot on procedure, it's easier for the pet owner and it's easier for the cat as well."

Although Tim Davie says he did use the new application procedure. At the time our story aired he had yet not called Hartz to report the incident, so despite his vet's diagnosis, that the seizures were a result of the medication. The company spokesperson says there is no way for Hartz to determine the cause of the cat's symptoms.

Davie's vet says the seizures were induced by pyrethrin, a pesticide that's been the subject of concern among some veterinarians because of cats' sensitivity. The active ingredient in the Hartz' product is phenothrin, a synthetic form of that chemical, relatively new to the market. Dr. Ahn: "Both of these chemicals come from the same class of compounds, attack fleas and ticks, there is a subtle difference in the structure of these compounds but all come from a proven class of chemicals that have a very specific purpose of protecting dogs and cats from pests."

Before reaching store shelves all flea and tick pesticides are tested by the EPA. Hartz officials say in the vast majority of complaints a pet owner uses the wrong product on an animal, such as a dog treatment on a cat or too large a dosage for too small an animal.

Tim Davie has since filed a complaint on the Hartz consumer hotline and insists he followed all instructions to the letter.