News 12 Investigates: Deceptive Dog Food?

Published: Aug. 31, 2017 at 2:06 PM EDT
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Thursday, August 31, 2017

(WRDW/WAGT) - Many pet parents pick their furry friend's food and treats based on the claims they read on a pet food label with statements like "Made in the USA," "USDA inspected," or "no hide." A local dog owner says she choose a treat for her pet based on labeling. Her dog later died and now the pet food company behind the treat is now under state investigation.

They say time heals all wounds but the pain is as raw as it was a month ago. "It's been a hard few weeks. We miss her terribly," Laura Beveridge cried. "I'm still so devastated. I think about it every night. I don't sleep well. I feel very deceived."

Dumplin died after a treat got stuck in her throat. "I felt I made a solid choice and educated choice based on safety and the safe rawhide alternative and the ingredients. I've learned never to make a decision on a pet food a pet treat label," she said.

The product: "No Hide Chicken Chew" by Earth Animal. The label states it's "The safe rawhide alternative" and "Manufactured in our USDA inspected human food facility."

Just a few days after Dumplin's death, a consumer advocacy group posted the results of a lab analysis of the No Hide Chew by Earth Animal. A leather scientist tested the chicken flavored chew.

The report states:

"The material had blood vessels, flesh residual....given the size, thickness and physical structure of the "bone" material in this "no-hide" product, the material is absolutely rawhide split material."

A DNA analysis of the salmon flavored no hide chew identified it as "bos taurus," or cow, with DNA traces from other animals. Beef is not listed as an ingredient on the label.

Liz Owens: "How would you sum up the pet food industry in America today?"

Susan Thixton: "The wild west. It's very misleading."

Susan Thixton is a long time pet food consumer advocator. She says many pet food companies use misleading labels to sell a product, like "USDA inspected."

Here's what "USDA inspected" actually means: An inspector approves a piece of meat for human consumption like a part of a chicken. Anything rotten, bad, or unfit for human's to eat is thrown to the side as condemned meat. The condemned meat is then used by some companies to make pet food.

The Food and Drug Administration regulates both people and pet food but the definitions of similar sounding ingredients are vastly different. "Pet food chicken could be the same as our chicken or it could be a rotting condemned chicken," Thixton said.

The FDA has recalled thirteen pet food products since January. In several of the recalls, pentobarbital was found in the pet food. Pentobarbital is the drug used to euthanize animals. In February, several dogs were sickened and one died from eating dog food tainted with pentobarbital. According to the Colombian newspaper, DNA results from that recalled food showed beef and horse. Pentobarbital is commonly used to euthanize horses.

"Consumers really need to get to know their pet food manufacture and understand the regulations that govern pet food," Thixton said.

The Department of Agriculture regulates pet food on the state level. The Georgia Department of Agriculture told us Earth Animal is registered as a feed dealer but did not register it's No Hide Chews in the state which is a requirement before the product is sold. Earth Animal told us it was an oversight and all of the appropriate paperwork has already been submitted.

"This just can't keep happening. Our pets are not protected," Beveridge said.

Dumplin's veterinarian said she died from a horrible accident. Earth animal told us the chew was too small for a dog of Dumplin's size. Earth Animal lists the recommended chew to dog size on its website but it the recommendation is not on the label of the chew.

"It's hard putting it behind me because I need the answers. You can't heal until you can put it behind you and know hopefully other dogs will be more protected," Beveridge said.

Earth Animal did its own DNA testing on the chew. The results came back showing traces of beef and other animals. The company says that is expected since the chew is made in building which processes meat. The company's report claims the product does not contain rawhide. Earth Animal also states the DNA testing showing beef as an ingredient is not enough to prove its rawhide.