Recently, an agreement was made between various pet supply companies and the Environmental Protection Agency to stop production and distribution of all pet flea collars containing the active ingredient propoxur. Flea and tick collars can leave a high level of pesticide residue on a pet's fur, posing a health risk to adults and children who play with the pet.

Children are especially vulnerable, as they may spend extended time in close contact with pets, or put their hands in their mouths after petting an animal. In large doses, propoxur can harm or kill cats, dogs and, in extreme poisoning cases, humans. At lower levels of exposure, propoxur can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, wheezing, sweating and tearing eyes.

Some of the companies currently making flea collars with propoxur are Zodiac, BioSpot, Sentry and Bensect. All have promised to stop manufacturing collars with this chemical by April 2016. Friends of the Alameda Animal Shelter (FAAS) strongly recommends that you stop using collars from these companies now and check the ingredients levels of any flea collars you are thinking of purchasing.

Fleas are parasites that are difficult to control, and infestations of fleas on your pet and/or in your home are unhealthy for everyone. There are ways to control fleas without using toxic pesticides and the National Resources Defense Council recommends the following to help you:

  • Give your pet regular baths with a pesticide-free pet shampoo, and use a flea comb between baths.

  • Launder your pet's bedding in hot water. Vacuum carpets regularly to eliminate flea eggs that could be hidden there.

  • If you need to use a chemical flea-control product, choose the safest options. Pills usually contain the least toxic chemicals and don't leave a residue on your pet or in your home.

  • Check the label. Avoid flea collars that list propoxur, tetrachlorvinphos, amitraz or carbaryl as active ingredients. Instead, opt for products with labels that list lufenuron, spinosad, methoprene or pyriproxyfen. These are common and effective insect growth regulators.

    Pet Of The Week: NEVILLE is a spunky 7-year-old Chihuahua mix who loves walks in the sunshine and exploring his surroundings.

    Dog Alley: There are 16 available dogs at the Alameda Animal Shelter. TRUDY is a friendly pit bull with a smile as big as the sun! She's black-and-white, about 4 years old and great with people and other dogs. GRETCHEN is a brown-and-black cairn terrier mix about 1 year old that would love a nice quiet home.

    Cat Lair: There are 25 available cats at the shelter. J-CAT is a handsome gray-and-white tabby. He is 2½ years old. SILVER is a stunningly beautiful cream/silver tabby with blue eyes. She's 11 years old.

    RABBIT ROW: MARTIN is an agouti, and SPECKLES is an English spot. DULCE is a black New Zealander. CUBBY is a handsome brown rabbit, and SQUASH is a good-looking gray fellow. All of the rabbits have been neutered.

    Mim Carlson is executive director of Friends of the Alameda Animal Shelter. Visit the shelter at 1590 Fortmann Way at Grand Street, call 510-337-8565 or visit www.alamedaanimalshelter.org to view the animals.