Discussion: Will Big Food Protect Our Pets from Toxic Ingredients?

Charlie enjoying a homemade treat.

Charlie enjoying a homemade treat.

One of the revelations resulting from the massive 2007 pet food recall was that many different brands of dog and cat food are made by a few large corporations.  When news first broke that Pet Food Brand A, found to be contaminated with melamine, was sickening and killing family companions, many owners felt their pets were safe because they were feeding Pet Food Brand B or C or whatever.  As the facts slowly escaped, despite a massive cover up effort by pet food manufacturers, consumers learned that the melamine used in A was also used in making B, C, and a host of other brands.  Then no one felt safe.

Since then, the corporations have tightened their grip on the market.  J.M. Smucker announced this month it was purchasing Big Heart Pet Brands (formerly Del Monte Foods) whose products include Meow Mix and Kibbles ‘n Bits. And it’s big business:

The nation’s pet-food sales have nearly doubled since 2000, to more than $22 billion last year, American Pet Products Association data show.
[…]
Smucker expects pet food will contribute more to its bottom line than Jif, Pillsbury, Crisco and its namesake jams and jellies, combined.

Iams and Eukanuba were bought by Mars in 2014.  (Iams was key in forcing news of the massive melamine poisoning in 2007 to go public.)  While there are some smaller companies left, they represent a tiny portion of the market:

About 93 percent of the mid-priced dog and cat food sold in North America goes to only three companies: Big Heart, Mars and Nestle, the giant behind Purina, Dreyer’s ice cream and Hot Pockets.

If you buy mid-range pet food, chances are very high that it is manufactured by one of these three megabrands.  Do you feel confident that Smucker, Mars and Nestle are making the health and safety of your pet a high priority?  Do you trust these corporations to swiftly issue a recall when faced with sufficient evidence of toxic ingredients in their pet foods?  Do you feel consumers are in a better position to protect their pets from poisoned pet food today than they were in 2007?

Treats on the Internets

A document obtained via FOIA request from the city of Maryville, TN shows that in 2014, the shelter had a 99% save rate. Well done!

The state of CT has created a task force for the purpose of  improving conditions for animals in public shelters.

Haters gonna hate.  But if you check out the comments on the linked article it looks like this private shelter in MT, which saved more than 1100 animals last year, has strong support within the community.  (Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Arizona – A USDA employee who disliked his neighbor’s dog set two steel coyote traps and baited them with lure paste in order to trap the pet.  The dog lost 17 teeth trying to free herself.  The employee was charged with animal cruelty.  The USDA submitted a letter to the court stating the employee acted lawfully.  (Thanks Clarice.)

This article debunks some of the myths surrounding homeless people who own pets.

Klein Animal Shelter in Jacksonville, TX: Priorities

Warning: Disturbing photos

clean truck

Screengrab from Facebook

This screengrab from Facebook appears to show a 2013 posting from Klein Animal Shelter director Angela Wallace who was charged with felony animal cruelty this year.  The caption indicates that her staff at the shelter “finished up early” and had time to wash her truck for her.  We now know from state documents and photographs that what the staff finished up early was neglecting and torturing animals.

Cats in a filthy cage at the Klein Animal Shelter.

Cats in a filthy cage at the Klein Animal Shelter.

State documents indicate that dead animals were left to pile up in cages at Klein because none of the employees wanted to risk soiling their vehicles by driving the remains to the dump for disposal.

Waste trough at Klein Animal Shelter.  A pair of animal legs is visible hanging out the back of a cage into the trough.

Waste trough at Klein Animal Shelter. A pair of animal legs is visible hanging out the back of a cage into the trough.

Animals suffering in filth. Dead animals piled up in cages. But the staff had time to wash the director’s truck.

The city of Jacksonville, along with several other cities, paid Klein for sheltering services for years. If you are a taxpayer in one of these cities, you paid for this.

(Thanks Stephen Pope for sending me these photos.)

Weekend Jade

Jade thinks every day is Valentine's Day.

Jade thinks every day is Valentine’s Day.

Open Thread

Post anything animal related in the comments, anytime.  New Open Threads are posted weekly.

Happy Valentine's Day [x]

Happy Valentine’s Day [x]

State Photos and Documents from Klein Animal Shelter in Texas

WARNING: This post is hidden behind a jump for good reason. It contains text and photos of shelter pet abuse which will disturb you. Not may disturb – not some of you – this post will disturb all of you. None of the images are gratuitous and they all are from a file maintained by the Texas Department of State Health Services. All the images and documents are a matter of public record, available via FOIA request.  If you share the story online, please link to this post and not directly to the page below the fold so that readers can decide whether they want to proceed before they actually see any images.  There will be an additional warning on the page itself.  This material is not appropriate for children.

There is no shame in choosing not to look. If you feel unable to proceed, trust your judgment. We all need to take care of ourselves first so that we can continue to care for others.

Regular readers are familiar with the abuse allegations at the Klein Animal Shelter in Texas which I have covered here, here and here.  The text and photos from the Klein facility which I’m posting today are far worse than what has previously appeared on the blog about Klein.  I wrestled with the decision about which photos to publish and even whether to publish at all.  I lost sleep over these photos.  I wished I could “unsee” them and had to carefully consider subjecting my readers to the horror they depict.  I ultimately decided to publish because I believe there is significant value in sharing this story. My hope is that it will bring greater awareness to a subject covered regularly here but too often ignored by media and, if it reaches local taxpayers, will motivate them to take action and demand justice for the crimes alleged in these documents and photos.  This is why I blog.

(Thank you Stephen Pope for sending me the docs and photos obtained via FOIA request.)

Name That Animal

This is just for fun and the only rule is:  no researching.  Post your best guesses in the comments.  Reading other people’s answers before posting your own is prosecutable by law optional.  Answer will be posted in the comments tomorrow.

nta

Staff at Texas Pound Chucks Donations into the Dumpster

The Montgomery Co pound in Texas has a sign taped on the front door asking the public for donations of towels, blankets, quilts, puppy pads, pet food and various other items typically requested as donations by shelters.  We’ve all heard this one before:  municipal shelters are underfunded and the staff is forced to kill animals because of the irresponsible public and blah.

Well in Montgomery Co, the irresponsible public kindly donated many of the requested items on the pound’s list.  And the staff threw the donations into the dumpster.  Volunteers had to dumpster dive in order to retrieve the brand new pet beds, food, puppy pads and other donations.

Donations from the public thrown away by staff at the Montgomery Co pound in Texas, as shown on the KHOU website.

Donations from the public thrown away by staff at the Montgomery Co pound in Texas, as shown on the KHOU website.

When a KHOU reporter asked pound director Dr. Aubrey Ross for an explanation, he was all oh gee, misunderstanding. But a reporter with The Courier of Montgomery Co got more details:

Included in the items was unopened, unexpired pet food, the volunteer said. The situation was reported to the shelter’s director, who helped pull the items out. According to the volunteer, the director did not know who instructed employees to trash the items.

[…]

However, Precinct 4 Commissioner Jim Clark, who is overseeing the transition of the shelter’s new management, said the situation was a misunderstanding between Dr. Aubrey Ross II, who is now managing the shelter, and staff.

He said items were not “brand new.”

[…]

Clark said Ross gave the nod to discard the items under the impression that the items were not usable.

“We didn’t have all new stuff there,” said Clark, adding that many of the items were torn or broken.

Volunteers say many of the donations still had tags on them. I guess the filthy rat bastard public must have ripped up the donations after paying for them and before leaving them at the pound.

On its website, the Montgomery Co pound has two months of statistics – September and October 2013.  Those two months reflect a kill rate of 46%.  I think the misunderstanding here has to do with the meaning of the word shelter. Get some management in there who understands what it means to actually shelter animals and I bet the donation hurling stops all by itself.

(Thanks Arlene for the link.)

Discussion: NH Bill Backed by HSUS

In New Hampshire, HSUS is promoting House Bill 624 which would require owners charged with cruelty to pay for their seized animals’ care while waiting for their day in court.  If the accused can’t afford to pay, they lose all rights to their animals, regardless of the outcome at trial. HB 624 would change the current law from requiring those convicted of cruelty to pay court costs to those accused. So much for presumed innocent, I guess.

The bill reportedly has support from the state’s animal shelters, which often house the seized animals and determine the fees associated with their care.  The officers citing the owners for cruelty are typically closely affiliated with the shelters.  The cruelty citations, seizure, cost determination and forfeiture would potentially all be handled by a very small, tightly knit group of individuals.  All without the accused ever receiving the benefit of a trial.

HB 624 is scheduled to come before the House Environment and Agriculture Committee on Friday.

Anyone see any possible up side to this bill?  Nothing jumps out at me.

Treats on the Internets

Case Update:  Despite a city appointed committee finding “clear and convincing evidence” that Louisville Metro Animal Services neglected a dog named Sadie causing her months of suffering before she was finally euthanized, prosecutors have declined to file any charges, citing lack of evidence.  (Thank you Clarice for the link.)

A sad turn of events in Minnesota following the resignation of Animal Ark executive director Mike Fry:  the new director is proposing an end to the shelter’s long standing no kill policies and making a bid to start killing animals.  (Thanks Arlene.)

The Lawton Animal Shelter in Oklahoma is under investigation by the state Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners after two dogs starved to death at the facility.  (Thanks Clarice.)

Wally Barber, a recently retired ACO in Snohomish Co, Washington was reportedly confronted by a police officer responding to a complaint of a neglected goat on Barber’s property.  After the police officer left, Barber shot the goat in the head and buried her.  Barber, a 30 year veteran of AC, has been charged with animal cruelty and a gun violation.  (Thanks Clarice.)

The link between domestic violence and animal cruelty can not be overstated:  studies indicate that 48 percent to 71 percent of battered women have pets who have been hurt or killed by the woman’s abuser.  Law enforcement and prosecutors need to take animal cruelty cases more seriously.

Two Fort Worth police officers came across a little dog loose on the interstate so they shut down the freeway then coaxed the dog into their squad car with a treat.  The dog was later adopted.  (Thanks Barb.)

Possible vacation destination:  Japan has a fox sanctuary with over 100 foxes roaming around and the public can pay to hang with the animals.  (Thanks Arlene.)