A New Advocacy Website and May National Water Safety Month spotlight this Danger
Orlando, FL – (May 6, 2009) – Matthew Ranfone was only two years old when he slipped out of his Orlando home, into an enclosed patio area and through a pool fence into the backyard pool. His parents found him minutes later floating face down. Matthew Ranfone died 13 days later from the injuries sustained in the near drowning. The Ranfone’s story is not unique. It is estimated that in the last decade more than 100 children nationwide have drowned, nearly drowned or been injured, after exiting the home through a pet door. Yet few parents know about this hidden hazard. Today Mathew’s mother, Carol Ranfone, is launching a website,
www.PetAccessDangers.org, to raise awareness of this danger and advocate for change in the industry.
“Our family has chosen to respond to Matthew’s death by informing the public and working to ensure that pet doors are made safer,” Carol Ranfone said. “Matthew didn’t have a chance to grow up, but we hope that our advocacy will keep other children out of harm’s way.”
Pet door-related drowning incidents have been identified through news stories, public health specialists, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and coroners/medical examiners.
“But the total number to date underestimates the true scope of the problem because most accidental drownings are classified only by cause of death or injury and do not identify how the child accessed the water,” said Sean Kane, president of Safety Research & Strategies, whose firm has been researching the issue nationally. “Child injury researchers are well aware of the link between pet access doors and child injury and death, but many parents and caregivers do not appreciate the risk associated with use of a pet door, and how young children can drown, become lost, wander into streets, or otherwise become seriously injured or killed after exiting a home through a pet door.”
The size of the opening appears deceptively small. Parents may believe that their child is safely contained inside the home. But an average “medium” pet door with a typical opening of 8 x 11 inches is recommended by manufacturers for use with pets up to 40 pounds. A 95th percentile, three-year-old male child weighs only 38 pounds and can easily pass through this opening. Reasonable and economically feasible alternatives to the simple flap-style pet door closure exist, yet companies are still marketing and selling these doors with no locking mechanism and without warnings.
“Manufacturers, while quick to blame parents for a lack of supervision, are aware of the risk that pet doors pose to small children,” said product safety attorney Henry Didier, who represents the Ranfone family. “These manufacturers are in a position to reduce or eliminate the risk before the consumer even purchases the product, and to date, they have not.
Through www.PetAccessDangers.org, Carol Ranfone hopes to spare other families from the pain her family has endured, and encourage the pet door industry to improve their designs. The website also urges public agencies, hospitals and medical examiners’ offices to incorporate a coding system to provide more accurate data as to how a child may have reached the water or other hazard. This information is critical to understanding the true scope of the safety issues surrounding pet door products and the risk they pose to the public.