Consumer Alert: Children's Deaths Tied to Pet Doors

More than a hundred children have died or been seriously injured in the last decade after squeezing through tiny pet doors and getting into swimming pools or other dangerous places, new research has found.

"What we see is a picture that's emerging which shows that the pet door is a really serious hazard in a home that no one has really had on the radar screen," said Sean Kane, of Safety Research and Strategies.

At the request of trial lawyers, Kane combed through hundreds of coroner's reports and media accounts.

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"It's a very laborious task to get through the documents and the data and the connections to find these incidents," said Kane. "But I think at the end of this we're going to find hundreds of incidents."

Kane compared the issue with pet doors to the discovery of the pattern of children hurting themselves in cribs.

Millions of pet owners have installed the convenient devices, which allow cats and dogs to come and go at will. Some of the openings measure 8 by 11 inches, no bigger than a sheet of paper.

VIDEO: Pet doors have led to the deaths of more than 100 children.

In a demonstration, three-year old Dylan Didier was able to easily squeeze through a pet door meant for cats and small dogs.

Click here to see the demonstration.

"Parents don't appreciate that their children, even if they're bigger, can get through," said Dylan's father, Hank Didier, a Florida lawyer suing a pet door manufacturer for the family of two-year old Matthew Ranfone.

Matthew's mother Carol, of Spring Hill, Florida, found her son floating in the backyard swimming pool after he managed to get through a small pet door in the family home.

"I remember when the accident occurred," she recalled, "and thinking to myself, 'How in the world did he ever fit out of that door?'"

VIDEO: Child Slips through Pet Doors

The PetSafe door in the Ranfone home contained no warning to parents of the possible danger on its package or product instructions.

She was outraged to learn that many children had died under similar circumstances before her son.

"It was just unbelievable to me that all of these accidents happened as a result of doggie doors and how come I wasn't informed," she told ABC News.

The manufacturers of the PetSafe door, Radio Systems Corporation, of Knoxville, Tennessee, would not provide any executive to talk with ABC News.


In a statement, the company said its "thoughts and prayers go out to the Ranfone family," but declined further comment, citing the ongoing litigation.

Pet Door Company Says Parents at Fault

In depositions in the Ranfone case, the company's quality director, Steve Ogden, said, in effect, the parents must bear the responsibility for their son's death.

"We believe it is obvious that a dog door is an opening to the outside world in the same way a door that's opened is an opening to the outside world and we consider that the parent is responsible for supervising the child from going out this obvious opening," Ogden testified.

PetSafe does acknowledge the problem, however, on its more expensive, electronic pet door. A remote device attached to a pet's collar unlocks the door as the pet approaches. The door then locks again after the pet exits.

In its marketing materials, the company touts that the electronic lock "will prevent children from leaving the home."

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