01/26/11

Brookstone to Discontinue Frog-O-Sphere kits

We were happy to learn that Brookstone has decided to remove the Frog-O-Sphere kit from its shelves.

In previous posts we’ve blogged about why we were against this product. Others have protested against the kits as well, most notably PETA, which organized thousands of calls and e-mails to Brooksone, as well as appearances of a giant frog outside the Brookstone headquarters to protest the kits. After 18 months of protests, Brookstone has decided to discontinue the Frog-O-Sphere kit.

Photo courtesy of PETA

Brookstone joins Magic Beans, Target, and other retailers that have stopped selling these kits, but according to PETA, Coach House Gifts is still selling frogs in “EcoAquariums.”

Why did we think these kits were so bad? Unfortunately, the promise of a true ecosystem was their selling point, but this promise was overstated. The kit was meant to more or less take care of itself, the snail eating the algae, and so on. But the snails frequently died so a key part of the “ecosystem” fell apart. As with any pet, it takes more than a simple gimmick, and usually a lot of work, to keep the pet healthy and flourishing. In many cases these frog kits were bought as decorations for offices or as spontaneous gifts for a child. Once the novelty wore off, the frogs languished. Of course, this can happen with any pet, but because the frogs were not bought in pet stores, buyers did not receive instructions on the proper care of the frogs. In addition, many frogs died on the store shelves or while being shipped across the country.

We haven’t kept frogs as pets and generally don’t recommend it. In some cases, the frogs may be collected from wild populations (not the case with African Dwarf frogs). Pet frogs, especially from these types of kits, may be “let free,” which often happens at the end of a school year for a classroom frog grown from a kit,  or when a child gets bored with it. These ”free” frogs can wreak havoc on native frog populations by spreading disease.

If you purchased a Frog-O-Sphere, we highly recommend you learn about how to take care of your frog properly. We’ve included some links below. If you are experienced in the care of African dwarf frogs, please help us out by sharing tips in the comments.

Care of African Dwarf Frogs

Keeping African Clawed frogs and African Dwarf frogs

African Dwarf Frogs Housing and Feeding

Frog World: African Dwarf Frog

Book from Amazon: Your Happy Healthy Pet: Frogs and Toads

01/6/10

Pet Frogs Associated with Recent Salmonella Outbreak

Yesterday we received information from the American Veterinary Medical Association that about 80 people in 28 states have now become ill in a salmonella outbreak associated with pet frogs. More than three-quarters of the illnesses involved children younger than 10.

Bacteria matching the outbreak strain were found in aquariums that contained aquatic frogs. The Center for Disease Control and the Utah Department of Public Health (the site of at least 6 cases) are investigating animal distributors and vendors as possible sources of the outbreak.

Symptoms of Salmonella include: diarrhea, fever, and cramps 12-72 hours after the infection enters the body. The infection persists four to seven days and even longer for infected individuals with weaker immune systems.

People who should make explicit efforts to avoid contact with the animals are children, especially those younger than five years old, elderly people, and people with weak immune systems.

Given the findings, the Central for Disease Control advises the following:

  • Amphibians should not be kept in child-care centers.
  • Habitats containing amphibians should not be kept in a child’s bedroom, especially children aged less than 5 years.
  • Do not allow amphibians to roam freely through the house, especially in food preparation areas. Keep amphibians out of kitchens and other areas where food and drink is prepared or served to prevent contamination.
  • Habitats and their contents should be carefully cleaned outside of the home. Use disposable gloves when cleaning and do not dispose of water in sinks used for food preparation or for obtaining drinking water.
  • Do not bathe animals or their habitats in your kitchen sink. If bathtubs are used for these purposes, they should be thoroughly cleaned afterward. Use bleach to disinfect a tub or other place where amphibian habitats are cleaned.
  • Children aged less than 5 years should not clean habitats.
  • Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after cleaning habitats.

Aquatic frogs, such as the African Dwarf frog, are the frogs sold in Brookstone’s Frog-O-Sphere kits and other kits. This salmonella outbreak is another good reason to avoid these live frog kits.

09/11/09

The Frog-O-Sphere Controversy

This past weekend, Susan noticed “Frog-O-Sphere” kits in a Brookstone store. The frogs were barely moving and seemed as if they were dying. She found this very disturbing and asked me to find out about it. Doing a little research, I found out that just this past week, PETA staged protests in front of Brookstone stores against these kits. The Times of Trenton reported that after the PETA protests, a store in West Windsor, New Jersey, was ordered to pull the kits off its shelves after the township health office flagged the company for not having a pet shop license.

PETA protest in front of Brookstone store, Boston (Minneapolis Animal Rights Examiner)

PETA protest in front of Brookstone store, Boston (Minneapolis Animal Rights Examiner)

According to PETA’s website:

Recently, allegations have surfaced that Brookstone employees who see that frogs are languishing on store shelves have been instructed to put them ‘in the back,’ out of sight of customers, instead of contacting a veterinarian to get help for sick and dying animals.

Frog-O-Sphere kits, sold only by Brookstone, contain a plastic aquarium, two aquatic frogs, a bamboo plant, a snail, and living gravel. According to the company website, the frogs won’t outgrow the aquarium and may live for up to 4 years. The snail feeds itself and keeps the tank clean of algae and excess food. Living gravel acts as a biological filter, converting excess food and waste into a soluble form that can be used by the bamboo plant. The bamboo absorbs the waste, then releases oxygen, which helps the frogs and snail.

Keeping frogs as pets is controversial enough—a topic we’ll address in future posts. But I do think the claim that these kits promise a “complete self-contained ecosystem” is overstated. The kits remind me of the many pets I had as a child, such as the little turtle that sat under a plastic palm tree and lived a month or so. The Frog-O-Spheres fall into that category, despite the fact that the kits sound upscale, educational, and eco-friendly.

In the customer reviews on Brookstone, many people clicked “decoration” or “gift” as the reason to buy the kits. Most people also mentioned that the snails died within a couple of weeks. Unless the person who purchased the frogs is motivated to buy new snails (or get replacement snails from Brookstone), the water will soon become cloudy and the frogs will suffer, and the so-called “self-contained ecosystem” will fall apart.

From what I’ve read, African Dwarf frogs are pretty hardy and low maintenance, but they do have certain requirements that these Frog-O-Spheres don’t seem to fulfill. I looked at a frog pet site and found out that, for example, the frogs can live from 5 to 18 years, they need a gallon of water per frog, need a water heater for winter months, are less stressed out if they have artificial lighting for consistent day and night lighting (they are nocturnal), need plants and foliage to hide behind, and so on. If you have already purchased a Frog-O-Sphere, I recommend going online to learn about them or buy a pet care book about African Dwarf frogs.

If you are tempted to buy one of these Frog-O-Sphere kits, please resist. Go outside and enjoy frogs—in real ecosystems.