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The Pigeon Rat is a popular "make your own toy" playset manufactured by the Simpson Corporation (North America's third largest surgical chemical and supplies retailer), created by sewing a rat to a pigeon. Live pigeons and rats are not included in the playset, and instead children are required to hunt and capture animals of their own. The playset contains appropriate bait, traps, and instructions to aid children in capturing their animals, along with a needle and thread. The playset has received very mixed reviews, with some parents lauding it as an educational innovation, while other parents complain that it is inhumane and a serious health risk.
The first ever pigeon rat was created by Hugo Simpson Jr., the son of Simpson Corporation CEO Hugo Simpson Sr., on February 12th 1985. Young Hugo was exploring his father's vast estate in Missouri, playing games with some surgial equipment his father had left lying around the house. Using advanced stealth techniques he learned by watching Jackie Chan films, Hugo was able to sneak up on both a pigeon and a rat and inject them with a powerful general anaesthetic. Hugo then proceeded to sew the two animals together, as a way to practice his surgical skills. Later, when the pigeon rat woke up, Hugo was delighted to discover that he had created a pet that could neither run away nor fly away. At dinner that evening Hugo Jr. showed his father the pigeon rat, and the very next day the Simpson Corporation started production of the first ever Pigeon Rat playset.
Relatively soon after the first Pigeon Rat playsets started being sold in stores it became clear that it was a dangerous toy. Several children contracted serious illnesses as a result of coming in contact with either pigeons or rats. Other children hurt themselves while hunting the animals – many news reports at the time focused on children who had fallen off of bridges trying to catch pigeons, or fallen through manholes trying to catch rats. There was also a considerably large amount of children who died while handling the bait and traps.
In response to the criticism, the Simpson Corporation has, over the years, changed the assembly instructions for the pigeon rat to include such tips as, "Remember kids, pigeons can fly, you can't," and "Winners don't use drugs!" Statistics show that these changes have significantly improved the safety of the playset.