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Kids Back Antifreeze Bills To Protect Pets

By David Miles
Journal Capitol Bureau
    SANTA FE— Allie Vatoseow said the thought of her dog, Jigzy, possibly lapping up poisonous antifreeze was enough to make her ask lawmakers for legislation requiring antifreeze to contain a bittering agent.
    "We have the power to make this happen; we just need to do something about it," Vatoseow, a fifth-grader at Albuquerque's Montezuma Elementary School, said Monday.
    Vatoseow spoke at a Capitol news conference with Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, and Rep. Kathy McCoy, R-Sandia Park. About 20 children and three dogs also attended.
    McCoy and Ortiz y Pino have introduced similar bills (HB 482 and SB 497) to require antifreeze manufacturers to add the bittering agent denatonium benzoate to their product if it contains more than 10 percent ethylene glycol.
    Ortiz y Pino's bill also requires manufacturers of engine coolant to add the bittering agent.
    The sweet taste of antifreeze is appealing to animals, and the ethylene glycol in the product is poisonous to animals and humans.
    "This is not a partisan issue, clearly," Ortiz y Pino said. "This is something that all people who are concerned about dogs and about children and about public safety can get behind."
    McCoy said one of the reasons she introduced her bill is that one of her dogs died after ingesting antifreeze.
    "It was one of the most horrific deaths I've ever seen," McCoy said.
    A similar antifreeze bill died during the 2004 legislative session.
    But McCoy and Ortiz y Pino added a provision to their bills saying manufacturers, packagers, distributors, recyclers and sellers are not liable for personal injury, death or property damage from adding the bittering agent to antifreeze.
    Ortiz y Pino's bill includes broader categories of liability exemptions, such as environmental damage and economic loss.
    Bill Lafield, vice president of state affairs for Consumer Specialty Products Association, said the liability exemption was key to the group's decision to drop opposition to the legislation.
    Interest in the issue grew after the 2003 death of Scooby, a golden retriever who lived in Bernalillo County and had to be euthanized after ingesting antifreeze.
    The Albuquerque City Council last year enacted a local ordinance requiring any engine coolant or antifreeze sold within city limits to contain a bittering agent, and proponents are seeking a similar federal antifreeze law.