Tragedy prompts Pets at Home to stop selling three KONG dog leashes

The death of a young dog killed by a van after becoming detached from its leash prompted national pet store Pets At Home to stop selling three KONG dog leashes.

Dog owner Joanne McPoland bought a KONG brand leash – a world leader – in the store on Saturday March 19th. Last Sunday, the clip opened on a walk, releasing puppy Archie a Beagle-Harrier. Joanne and her partner Ed Hughes managed to lock him in an alley and put the leash back on.

The next day, during another walk, the carabiner clip opened again. However, this time a one-year-old ran into the road before Ed could get him to safety and the dog was hit by a van. Archie died on the side of the road.

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Pets At Home were contacted by the couple, from Belfast, about the accident and within hours the company had all KONG Rope Dog Lead withdrawn from sale in all stores.

Joanne and Ed are urging the public to check their own dog leashes after their #Action4Archie order caused the one they bought and two others to be pulled Europe-wide. The couple have requested an official product recall notice from Pets At Home, which can only happen when triggered by US company Mission Pets.

Joanne McPoland and Ed Hughes with Archie

Ed, 39, from Dunmurry, who was walking Archie at the time of the road accident, told Belfast Live: “Archie was basically my grandson. It’s just how I feel. I have no children of my own, he was my little man, my first dog and the best thing to come into our home.

“Joanne and I adored him and used to joke that if we had to choose between one of us and the dog it would be a close race. Now he’s gone and our house is desolate. Our hearts are broken.”

He continued: ‘We checked the lead well before our walk on Monday as it had opened up unexpectedly the day before and it seemed to be working fine. We trusted the KONG brand and we trusted Pets At Home who would only sell safe and guaranteed tracks. But now we know there are no guarantees.

“Witnessing what happened to Archie in seconds, from being full of life to death, was absolute trauma. I saw it all unfold, I heard the noise, I still keep going. replay in my head. I’m tortured.

“I feel guilty that he was killed while I was with him. Joanne feels guilty that we bought the leash. We are just devastated and angry and want to warn other dog families not to assume like us, that a trusted brand bought in good faith from a trusted store can’t fail just when you need it most.

Archie on his first birthday
Archie on his first birthday

The couple contacted Pets At Home to tell them what happened while using the KONG Rope Dog Lead and were initially offered a refund of £18.99. They then went through KONG and then the manufacturer of the lead in the United States, a company called Mission Pets.

Joanne said: “Thankfully they listened to us, they responded quickly and sales of leashes with this particular lobster clasp were immediately stopped, and they have been removed from all Pets At Home stores with immediate effect.

“All three companies now want our manager to do some testing on it and try to make sure what happened never happens again. He’s going to Mission Pets for full testing.” She added: “If we hadn’t used this track, if this clip hadn’t failed, we would have had it here by our side safe and happy. Instead, our home was consumed with grief. Anyone who loves a dog will understand what we are going through.

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‘We don’t blame the van driver he was in the speed limit on the road and he didn’t stand a chance because Archie ran away the moment he knew he was free when the clip has failed. He ran down the road at The Cutts towards a man who was walking around and being petted.

“But as Ed went to pick him up Archie backed into the road. It was awful for the driver too, he was in tears and he has our sympathy. We hope he’s okay. The only chance is that Ed wasn’t hit by a car because he instinctively got out to grab Archie.

“We spoke to Mission Pets who manufacture the lead and license it to KONG, and they immediately removed the lead from sale.

“And they want anyone who owns one of these KONG brand rope dog leashes to stop using it immediately until they can figure out what happened. We appreciate that and hope no one will not suffer the trauma that we are currently experiencing.”

The dog leash
The dog leash

A Pets At Home spokesperson said: ‘We were devastated to learn of what happened to Archie and our thoughts are with Ms McPoland and Mr Hughes at this very difficult time.

“We take safety issues of this nature very seriously and are removing three Kong products from sale that use this carabiner, including the Rope Dog Lead, while we work with Kong to understand what happened. We have been in contact with Ms. McPoland to offer our condolences and will keep her informed of the results of our investigation.

Mission Pets Inc President Michelle Elliott said, “We love pets and animals of all kinds – it’s at the heart of everything we do. We take any complaint against our product very seriously. Product safety is a major concern. We are in direct contact with the parties concerned to gather all the facts and circumstances. Our engineers would like to see the failed product. Once we better understand the situation, we will quickly work towards a resolution.

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And a KONG spokesperson said: “We at KONG are heartbroken and are working closely with our partners at Mission Pets to fully understand the situation that has arisen. Together we are reaching out to these pet parents to support them and receive more details.

“We would never want to do anything to put pets at risk. Our goal is to always do the best for our pets and make their lives better. Everything we do every day is about creating fun, safe and healthy interactions.

“We will be looking closely at our products to determine the best way forward while maintaining our high quality expectations.”

About Patrick K. Moon

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