Q: Is there an official organization that regulates bird toys? How can we start a grassroots campaign to improve the safety of toys? Can we start a safety rating on toys?
Although there are various groups that award “seals of approval” for consumer products, manufacturers may have to pay a fee for product testing and for the use of the seal in their advertising. I’ve only seen a few bird products enrolled in “seal-of-approval” programs, and I am not sure that such participation would actually help improve the safety of all bird toys.
What does help improve toy safety is consumer awareness. Since I began writing for BIRD TALK in 1984, toys for birds have become much safer. Twenty years ago, the exotic hobby was in its infancy. Sure, people had budgies, finches, canaries and other small birds, but large parrots like macaws and cockatoos were just beginning to gain popularity, and toys for them were scarce.
I and other contributors have addressed toy safety issues numerous times over the years and, in a sort of “grassroots movement,” BIRD TALK readers have continually written to the magazine to alert others about potentially unsafe toys. Shower curtain-style hooks, jingle-type bells, small screws and dyed leather strips and pieces were used in the manufacture of many toys years ago but, due to consumer complaints and awareness, their use has been sharply curtailed.
I remember a little woodenhead, studded with brass-like tacks that was implicated in injury to a budgie. A reader wrote to BIRD TALK about the toy, and her experience was highlighted, along with a photo of the toy, in the magazine. This alerted thousands of readers to the potential danger. Another reader alerted us to the danger of a hanging millet holder/perch combination that had small notches in the perch. Her budgie’s toe had become stuck in a notch.
Many bird toys are designed and manufactured by people who live with and love their birds. They test the toys on their own pets before offering them for sale. Many playthings are produced by manufacturers that have done extensive research and testing. Some companies include recommendations for use and list appropriate-size toys for particular birds on their labels or hang tags.
Toy designers and manufacturers have listened to us, and I believe they’ll continue do so as long as we persist in expressing our concerns to them. Begin your own grassroots campaign to improve toy safety by communicating your opinions. If you’re happy with a toy, write or e-mail the manufacturer; if you believe a toy is dangerous, express that as well. Let your pet shop proprietor know about your positive and negative experiences with bird toys. Network with other bird enthusiasts.
The Best Defense Is You
No toy can be guaranteed as safe for all birds all the time. Your bird’s best defense against injury is you.
- Examine toys for potential hazards, such as unsafe hardware and parts that may ensnare toes or trap beaks.
- Replace rope toys from cages when they become badly frayed, and remove clappers from bells if your bird has a penchant for detaching them.
- Supervise your pet with any new toy until you are certain it can play safely with the toy in your absence.
- Offer hand-held toys instead of the hanging variety if your bird is accident-prone.
- Keep your bird’s nails trimmed so they don’t become caught in chain or rope.
- Be aware that your pet bird is inquisitive, smart and mischievous. It can often find trouble in the most benign situation. Someday someone is going to write to say his or her bird cold-cocked itself with a Ping-Pong ball.