Congressional leaders, pet owners want FDA action over reports of treats making dogs sick

CLEVELAND - Pet owners who said their pet became sick or even died after eating a pet treat are pushing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take action. Kevin Thaxton of Westlake said his 10-year-old pug died after eating chicken jerky pet treats.

"About two weeks into giving her the dog treats, she didn't want them anymore," Thaxton said, adding he thought his dog was just being picky until she got very sick.

"We made the decision to put her down," Thaxton explained. He said his other dog also became ill, but survived.

"I want to see it pulled off the shelves," Thaxton said of the chicken jerky treats. He's spent more than $4,000 in vet bills.

FDA WARNING ABOUT CHICKEN JERKY PRODUCTS

The FDA issued a warning in December about a possible association between sick dogs and the consumption of chicken jerky products. The FDA said the products were also called chicken tenders, strips, or treats -- and they're imported from China.

The December reminder to dog owners came after a cautionary warning was issued in September 2007.

The FDA is working to find out why these products are associated with sick dogs, but said to date, scientists have not been able to determine the cause of the reported illnesses. At this time, there have been no recalls and the FDA is not implicating a specific product.

Extensive testing has been conducted by the FDA, but a contaminant has not been identified. This year, the FDA tested 80 samples from across the United States, and 153 tests are still pending.

With so many reports of vomiting and diarrhea, the FDA was looking for microbial pathogens. Of the 80 tested, 64 samples were tested for salmonella and none came back positive. The other 16 samples were tested for chemical toxicants and none were positive. The FDA continues to investigate. 

The FDA believes many of the reported illnesses may be the result of something other than the chicken jerky. If you have a problem with a product, contact the FDA .

CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS DEMAND MORE ACTION

Frustrated with just a warning, Thaxton called his Congressional representatives including Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH). Brown said if there's any evidence these pet treats are the problem, he believes the FDA should pull the product from store shelves.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) is demanding a recall of the chicken jerky snacks.

The Ohio Executive Director of the Humane Society of the United States said it understands the FDA has strict testing standards, but believes time is of the essence.

"We're calling on the FDA to do what they can to expedite the process," Karen Minton said. 

Chicken jerky company responds

Thaxton said he fed his dogs a Waggin' Train product. The company says it "has a comprehensive food safety program in place to ensure the safety of our products. We only use high-quality ingredients in our products, and the production facilities are designed and operated to meet U.S. Department of Agriculture standards. We have a dedicated team of quality control experts in China - particularly, in the plants - when Waggin' Train products are being produced. They monitor various steps of the manufacturing process for safety and quality of the product."

The FDA and Waggin' Train say dog owners should only use the chicken jerky products in small quantities. The treats should not be substituted for a balanced diet.

A spokesman for Waggin' Train says the product is safe.

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