Steve and Gail Herman had no idea a bag of dog treats could be such serious business, they said.
Holding Penelope, their 1-year-old long-haired Chihuahua, in his arms, the couple described their emergency visit to the pet hospital.
“We thought we were going to lose her,” he said. “Her kidneys were shutting down.”
Their veterinarian blamed the symptoms on “ingestion of jerky treats”. The Hermans say they had been feeding their dog Dentley’s brand chicken jerky treats for months.
Hundreds of dog owners and veterinarians have had concerns about chicken jerky-style dog treats imported from China.
CBS13 has obtained an FDA memo showing the agency has known about the issues since 2007, and has reportedly sent investigators to the manufacturing plants in China.
So why are the treats still being sold on store shelves?
The treats are reportedly made across the Pacific Ocean in Chinese factories, but sold under U.S. brand names — in the Herman’s case, it was Petsmart’s Dentley’s brand name.
The FDA told CBS13 it has received 530 complaints of dogs getting sick or dying from several brands of jerky treats just since November 2011, when the agency issued a caution — but never named any brands or issued a recall.
The FDA would not say whether any complaints had been made about Dentley’s.
“The FDA has done a fairly poor job in notifying the consumers,” said Dr. Katie True, a 20-year veterinarian at Sacramento’s Midtown Animal Hospital.
An FDA official told CBS13 in a written statement: “The FDA is actively investigating reports regarding chicken jerky and conducting analysis for multiple different chemical and microbiological contaminants.”
“To date,” the statement continued, “scientists have not been able to determine a definitive cause for the reported illnesses nor has a contaminant been found.”
“You cannot deny that there is some sort of link between eating the jerky treats and the disease that is occuring in dogs,” said True.
CBS13, however, found a variety of brands of chicken jerky treats imported from China that are still being sold in stores.
Consumer attorney Eric Ratinoff said, based on the number of complaints, stores should consider pulling them.
It’s fine for big business to profit off us,” said Ratinoff, “but it’s not fine for big business to disregard safety.”
Petsmart told CBS13 it has no plans to pull Dentley’s or any other brand because the “FDA has not linked any cases of illness or death to chicken jerky treats.”
The Hermans, who almost lost their Penelope, think it’s a bad call.
“We were fortunate that we caught this in time and she’s still alive,” he said.
There’s an online petition with about 10,000 signatures calling for the FDA to take action regarding chicken jerky treats from China.
The FDA said if it finds evidence there’s something bad in the treats, it will take appropriate action.