Proceed with caution when pest control marketers come to your door

Maria says she was working in her yard when pest control marketers approached her offering pesticide treatments KOMO photo

Be very careful about responding to companies that go door-to-door offering special deals on their product or services.

How do you know their track record? What about proper credentials? Do you even need what they're selling? Are they the best people to deal with?

Case in point- pest control companies that canvass neighborhoods trying to sign you up for pesticide treatments.

At first, Maria Gonzalez thought it was the solution to a known insect problem that needed to be addressed. Now, she says the pest control worker sprayed chemicals in a way that made her 3 cats very sick.

"I was doing yard work, and this young man came up and said that they were working in the area," Gonzalez explained.

She says two pest control companies had workers going door-to-door through her neighborhood selling pesticide treatments.

Gonzalez's landlord signed a contract with one that came to her home, because of a carpenter ant problem.

Based on their invoice, the company applied both liquid and dry chemicals around the exterior of the home, along the eaves and inside the home.

Gonzalez says she asked repeatedly about the chemical safety for her cats.

"And he said it was safe for the animals. It was safe for pets. It was safe for children," Gonzalez insisted.

Then, 24 hours after the chemical application, Gonzalez says all three cats were crying in pain.

"It was really horrible," said Gonzalez. "And they started vomiting. Not a lot, just a little bit, and it was white foam, and then they were like, drunk. And when I saw them that sick and crying so loud, and so horrible, I was, I was panicking."

Gonzalez says she called the vet, then rushed to the animal clinic.

The vet says based on the symptoms, required treatment and tests, he believes Gonzalez's cats were exposed to some sort of chemical agent which led to severe toxicity.

"I thought they were gonna die," she said.

All three cats recovered after treatment. But Gonzalez says the pest control company would only pay $100 towards her $300 vet bill.

"I don't feel that's right," said Gonzalez.

Her warning to pet owners? Buyer beware.

"Be careful with the poison. And then be careful with the companies," she stressed.

Bottom line: Always take time to investigate before doing business with anyone who just shows up at your front door.

  • Be wary of marketers that claim your neighbor signed up for their services.
  • Avoid high pressure scare tactics that focus on a problem you may not actually have.
  • Get their name, physical address and phone number and do some independent research.
  • Google the company name along with the word complaints- to see what kind of feedback you can find.
  • If a pest control marketer claims to use "green" pesticides, get the names of the products and look them up.
  • No matter what anyone tells you, never agree to sign a contract or make a purchase on the spot.

Some established pest control companies in the Puget Sound area say the door-to-door operators generate complaints every year and give reputable companies in the industry a black eye.

I put Gonzalez in contact with pest control compliance investigators at the Washington State Department of Agriculture. That's where you can verify pest control companies and employees, and file complaints if you have problems.

A spokesman says all pest control operators and all employees who apply pesticide chemicals are required to be licensed with the state.

If you have concerns about a pest control company, you can also file a complaint by email at or by calling the Department of Agriculture's toll free number: 1- 877-301-4555.

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