LINCOLN (CBS13) — Holding Penelope, their 1-year-old long-haired Chihuahua, in his arms, Steve Herman described their emergency visit to the pet hospital.
“We thought we were going to lose her,” he said. “Her kidneys were shutting down.”
The Hermans aren’t alone.
A May CBS13 Call Kurtis investigation uncovered hundreds of dog owners and veterinarians have had concerns about the same chicken jerky-style dog treats imported from China the Hermans said almost killed their 20-pound Penelope.
CBS13 has learned the FDA has known about the issues since 2007, and sent investigators to the manufacturing plants in China.
But Chinese officials aren’t cooperating, as FDA reports now show.
The FDA conducted inspections of at least facilities in China but reports China requires “having the samples analyzed in a Chinese laboratory” and won’t allow the FDA to bring samples back to the U.S. for testing.
FDA has expanded its investigation from chicken jerky treats to include duck jerky and sweet potato jerky as well, the administration reported.
During its inspections, however, the FDA found “concerns about the record keeping practices of several of the inspected firms,” the report found.
Chinese government officials claim to have halted exports from at least one factory accused of falsifying documents tied to the ingredient glycerin.
For now, the treats remain on store shelves.
Many chicken jerky treats are 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.
They said within a couple months of occasional feeding, Penelope became unresponsive. The vet said her kidneys were failing, “following ingestion of jerkey treats.”
The FDA told CBS13 it has received 530 complaints of dogs getting sick or dying from several brands of Chinese 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 Chinese-made chicken jerkey treats 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 jerkey 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 a online petition with about 10,000 signatures calling for the FDA to ban chicken jerkey treats from China.
The FDA said if it finds evidence there’s something bad in the treats, it will take appropriate action.