Police in Kent, Washington, have issued a dire notice to all dog owners, warning them not to approach or pick up any stray tennis balls they find lying around. Naturally, this presents an additional challenge to owners who like to let their pets off the leash.
A CBS News report found that amateur fireworks makers are using tennis balls and pipes as casings for their homemade pyrotechnics. If these "fireworks" don't go off as planned, they are simply left behind... like a landmine waiting to cause serious injury. These "tennis ball bombs" are dangerous because they're made by amateurs. Improper construction means these devices are nowhere near as reliable or safe as regulated fireworks are.
According to the report, "A tennis ball bomb is very easy to identify. It is a real tennis ball that has some sort of fuse sticking out of it. The tennis ball could also be completely wrapped in duct tape with a fuse sticking out."
If you happen to spot something that you think could be a tennis ball bomb, do not approach it or attempt to handle it. Call 911 and wait for authorities.
Jarod Kasner, public investigation officer for the Kent Police Department says that "some of them are very effective and dangerous, and some of them don’t work, but you don’t know. People light them, leave them thinking it’s a dud, but who knows what’s happening on the inside. Then a dog comes and picks it up …"
Though this warning was issued in one community in Washington, it's probably best to take note of this advisory no matter where you live. DIY fireworks enthusiasts (and tennis balls) aren't confined to one corner of the country, after all. Back in 2000, a dog in Portland, Oregon, had to be put down due to the severity of his injuries after one of these bombs blew up in his mouth.
“If it doesn’t go ‘boom’ some people just walk away from it,” says Kasner. “Unfortunately, dogs pick up everything up in their mouth and bring it to you …”
Even when they look like they're not lit, it could still be smoldering inside, and the motion from picking it up might be just enough to set off the explosion. If you see a ball or any other household item that looks burnt or has wick or tape attached to it, stay away. Notify the authorities. Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to move it unless you want to be the next potential victim.
With summer being the perfect time to take your kids and pets out and about, please remember to heed this warning and keep loved ones away from anything suspicious. These types of bombs also come in other containers and pipes, so it's probably best not to mess with anything on the ground that looks like it shouldn't be there.