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Tag: investigation

Company was aware that euthanasia drug was present in its canned dog food

The TV station that disclosed the presence of the euthanasia drug pentobarbital in canned dog food — leading to the recall of 107 million cans — is staying on the case and reporting that the manufacturer was aware of, and remained silent about, even higher levels of the drug.

Earlier this year, ABC7 (WJLA) in Washington aired an investigative report on the drug being found in Gravy Train canned food.

A recall was later announced for Gravy Train and three other canned dog foods — Kibbles ‘N Bits, Ol’ Roy and Skippy, all of which, like Gravy Train, are made by Big Heart Brands, a subsidiary of Smucker’s.

Any levels of pentobarbital in dog food are concerning, as is the use of any drug-euthanized animal as a source of either human or pet food are outlawed.

The FDA (maybe recognizing a TV station was doing its job, maybe not) launched its own investigation into Smucker’s just hours after the report aired.

Big Heart Brands — saying its top priority is the “safety and quality of its products” — has maintained that the levels of pentobarbital detected in tests by the WJLA were far too low to be concerned about.

But WJLA reported last week that even higher levels — 80 times higher — have been found by the FDA.

According to a class action lawsuit against the company, the FDA found pentobarbital in the company’s fat supply, at levels at least 80-times higher than what the TV station discovered in products on the shelves.

And the company apparently had been alerted to that. It retained a sample of that fat from a full year earlier, in 2017, with levels of pentobarbital more than 50-times higher than the results that prompted the recall.

“It is an important fact because they retained it, yet they didn’t test it,” said attorney Rebecca Peterson, one of the attorneys handling one of the class action lawsuits against Smucker’s and its subsidiary, Big Heart Pet Brands “Or they did test it and they still went forward by including that tallow in the contaminated dog food.”

At issue is a rendered fat ingredient — the boiled byproduct of carcasses that contained the euthanasia drug pentobarbital.

In a statement, Smuckers said it has “robust quality assurance procedures in place, we are committed to enhancing sourcing and supplier oversight procedures to help ensure this does not happen again.”

Court documents allege the source of contaminated fat was the company’s supplier JBS.

JBS is also the subject of investigations related to E.coli contaminations and the inhumane treatment of animals.

In a statement, JBS stated it has modified it procurement process and “will divert all third-party sourced materials to non-edible production until the company can ensure these materials meet its high standards for quality and safety.”

Why does the drug we use to euthanize animals keep showing up in dog food?

Pentobarbital, part of the cocktail administered to dogs, cats and sometimes horses to euthanize them, continues to show up in dog food.

How that happens — and why it is allowed to — are questions raised in an investigative report last week by WJLA in Washington.

The station teamed up with Ellipse Analytics, a lab that specializes in testing food for contaminants,

gravytrainIn testing 62 samples of wet dog food, across more than two dozen brands, one brand came back positive for for the euthanasia drug pentobarbital. Nine of 15 cans of Gravy Train showed non-lethal levels of the drug.

Under federal law, no concentration of pentobarbital is permitted in pet food. WJLA reported the FDA didn’t initially seem too interested about its findings.

The agency declined requests for an on-camera interview, and referred the station to the Pet Food Institute — the trade organization that represents the pet food industry. Further requests for information from the FDA were met with the response that it will “investigate the matter and take appropriate enforcement action.”

It’s not the first time pentobarbital has been found in dog food.

About a year ago Evanger’s recalled some lots of its “Hunk of Beef” canned dog food after it was found to contain the sedative.

The company said at the time that the meat in question came from a cow rendered by a supplier, but, as WJLA reported, federal law does not allow use of the toxin to kill animals that are part of the food supply.

Gravy Train is made by Big Heart Pet Foods and owned by Smucker’s.

Big Heart Brands is also the maker of Meow Mix, Milk Bone, Kibbles’n Bits, 9 Lives, Natural Balance, Pup-Peroni, Gravy Train, Nature’s Recipe, Canine Carry Outs, Milo’s Kitchen, Alley Cat, Jerky Treats, Meaty Bone, Pounce and Snausages.

Dr. Nicholas Dodman, chief scientific officer for The Center for Canine Behavior Studies and former director of the Animal Behavior Program at Tufts University, said even non-lethal amounts of the drug should be a concern.

“Whether it’s doing something or nothing, what’s it doing there? Where did it come from? If they don’t like the explanation that it’s coming from animals that have been euthanized, what is their explanation as to how it gets in?” asked Dodman.

Smucker’s declined WJLA’s request for an on-camera interview, but issued a statement saying, “We launched and are conducting a thorough investigation, including working closely with our suppliers, to determine the accuracy of these results and the methodology used.”

Most believe pentobarbital, when it shows up in dog food, is a result of euthanized animals being blended into food by those who render the carcasses.

That, in itself is against federal laws that prohibits the use in both dog and human food of any animals that have not been slaughtered. Using euthanized animals is prohibited.

As Susan Thixton, a pet food consumer advocate told the station, “Billion dollar a year companies are making profit selling illegal adulterated products to unknowing consumers in the U.S. every day.”

She added, “The FDA tells industry ‘Yeah, it’s a violation of law, but go ahead, we’re not going to do anything,'” said Thixton.

Gang members arrested in China for selling poison darts used to kill dogs for meat

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Thousands of poisoned syringes that were sold to dog meat vendors to instantly kill dogs on the streets have been seized by police in China.

The police investigation led to the discovery of a ton of dead dogs at a storage facility in the eastern province of Anhui, and the arrest of eight gang members who were selling the weapon in 20 provinces and regions across the China, the news agency Xinhua said.

Police believe the gang sold more than 200,000 poisoned syringes to vendors who hunted pets on the street and traded their meat with restaurants.

The syringes contained a large enough dose of the muscle relaxant suxamethonium to kill the dogs instantly — and enough to be toxic to any human later consuming the dog’s meat.

Police said the needles were modified with a spring and a tailfin at the rear so they could be shot like a dart.

The Telegraph reported that the investigation into the gang began in September when police were tipped off by a postal worker who came across a suspicious package leaking a pungent smelling fluid.

syringesThey discovered 200 syringes in the package, and arrested the man who it was being delivered to in Huainan city, in Anhui.

Police then arrested two accomplices who shot the dogs in local streets, before finding a ton of frozen dogs at a nearby cold storage.

The men had frozen the meat and had planned to sell it in the winter.

Police also raided the gang’s workshop in central China’s Hubei Province, where they arrested another five men who were making the syringes.

At that site they discovered four kilograms of the chemical powder, 10,000 needles and 100,000 yuan, or more than $15,000, Xinhua said.

The poisoned darts have been in use for years. Two years ago, in Hunan province, a man who ran a dog meat-selling operation shot himself with one while demonstrating how to fire one with a crossbow. He died on his way to the hospital.

The other members of the operation were later arrested, and confessed to freezing the canine carcasses with the intention of selling the meat to restaurants.

“The dog meat trade in China is organized, large scale and facilitated by crime, with as many as 20 million dogs and four million cats killed every year,” said Wendy Higgins, from the Humane Society International. “Stopping the gangs involved is a major step in the right direction.”

She added: “The use of poison to catch dogs for the meat trade is a cruelty that very often sees people’s beloved pets targeted, and the animals involved can suffer enormously.”

Dog meat has long been consumed by humans in China and other Asian countries. It is eaten by a small minority of Chinese, and the practice is fading as dogs become a popular pet.

Former racing greyhounds to find adoptive homes after Texas blood bank shuts down

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That Texas operation that held retired racing greyhounds in captivity to regularly harvest and sell their blood is shutting down.

PETA exposed neglectful conditions at the blood farm this fall and has been campaigning hard for its closure — going so far as to put up billboards, engage in protests and even buy a share of stock in the company it sold blood to.

The Pet Blood Bank, located northwest of Austin, is one of several commercial blood banks in the United States with an in-house “colony” of dogs used to supply blood for veterinary treatments, according to the Washington Post blog Animalia.

An attorney for the blood bank said in a statement Thursday that the closing was a “business decision” made because the PETA campaign had “caused our long-standing customer relationships to be terminated.”

The National Greyhound Association and other dog-racing advocacy organizations said they were working with regional greyhound adoption groups and the Pet Blood Bank to place all of the 150 greyhounds now housed there up for adoption.

“We’re confident that every greyhound at the blood bank will be on its way to a loving new home within the next few days,” said Jim Gartland, the association’s executive director.”

Last month, PETA obtained photos and videos from a former company employee showing dogs confined in squalid quarters and, in some cases, left to suffer from painful injuries and dental disease.

The blood bank’s owner, Shane Altizer, denied the allegations.

PETA aimed its campaign primarily at Patterson Veterinary, the Minnesota-based company that the blood bank was a provider for. It held protests at the company headquarters and the home of the CEO of its parent group. It bought billboards, and one share of stock in Patterson Companies “to put pressure on the billion-dollar enterprise.”

Operations like the Pet Blood Bank sell their products to veterinary clinics or supply companies, and greyhounds — because members of the breed often have a universal blood type — are commonly used as donors.

The banks are not regulated by the federal government, and California is the only state that regulates them.

In a statement on Thursday, President Ingrid Newkirk said PETA would “work hard to get regulations passed to ensure all blood for emergency transfusions comes from real donors and not from imprisoned, miserable dogs.”

(Photo: PETA)

Facing defunding, VA says it will keep closer eye on its dog research experiments

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The Department of Veterans Affairs says it will tighten oversight of controversial medical experiments on dogs after an investigation found surgery failures and canine deaths in research projects at a VA facility in Virginia.

The announcement of a change in policy comes as Congress considers a bill to defund the experiments altogether.

Nationwide, invasive experiments at three VA facilities are slated to include roughly 300 dogs, and involve surgeries on their brains, spines and hearts by researchers seeking treatments for heart disease and other ailments, USA Today reported yesterday.

All the dogs will be killed when the research is complete.

Michael Fallon, the VA’s chief veterinary medical officer, said all future research projects involving dogs will have to be approved by the VA’s accrediting body.

The VA’s Office of Research Oversight found in May that researchers at the VA facility in Richmond failed to adequately document whether dogs had been treated properly, and that four dogs suffered complications in experimental surgeries.

Those findings are fueling an effort to halt VA dog experiments deemed painful for the dogs. The House passed legislation — known as the PUPPERS Act — in July that eliminated funding for such research, but the VA is hoping to persuade senators to reject the measure.

“If this legislation passes the Senate, it would stop potential VA canine research-related medical advancements that offer seriously disabled veterans the hope of a better future,” VA Secretary David Shulkin wrote in a USA Today op-ed this month.

Opponents of the dog research say much of that research hasn’t translated to humans and that the VA is relying on outdated models that don’t fully take into account scientific advances that may provide alternatives to dogs as research subjects.

“The VA is abusing its authority and fear-mongering to defend taxpayer-funded experiments on dogs that are cruel and unlikely to help veterans or anybody else,” said Justin Goodman, vice president of White Coat Waste Project, an advocacy group that wants to end funding to the agency’s dog experiments.

Only three VA facilities are conducting the type of research that would be affected by the legislation.

In Milwaukee, VA researchers looking for ways to decrease pain without slowing breathing are using dogs to study neurons that control breathing rates. In those experiments, researchers place the dogs under anesthesia and remove parts of their brains to cause a complete loss of consciousness and sensation, according to research protocol documents.

In Cleveland, VA researchers are studying ways to restore cough functions after spinal cord injury. The experiments involve placing dogs under anesthesia and then using electrodes for high-frequency stimulation at various places on their spinal cords to induce coughing. The research calls for 41 dogs, who are euthanized upon the completion of the studies.

At the Richmond VA, researchers are seeking therapies for heart disease. They are implanting pacemakers in dogs, running them on treadmills and performing various tests, including by injecting medications, inducing irregular heartbeats, creating heart attacks and blocking arteries with latex. After the research is done, the dogs are euthanized by injection or by draining their blood.

The investigation of the Richmond cardiac experiments followed a complaint to the VA inspector general’s office in March.

Investigators concluded a dog received an overdose of anesthetic during one surgery, and two dogs suffered surgical disruptions of nerves controlling digestive functions. One later died and the other was euthanized during subsequent surgeries. A fourth dog died after a surgeon accidentally cut into one of its lungs during surgery.

The VA says dogs accounted for less than 1% of the animals used in agency research last year.

Photo: Billboard in Cleveland area calls for an end to the experiments, from Cleveland.com)

Judge’s aide used county credit card for $150,000 in purchases, including a tuxedo for her pug

gossA former assistant to a county judge in Arkansas has entered a guilty plea to charges she used a county credit card to charge more than $150,000, including pet insurance and a tuxedo for her pug.

Kristi Lyn Goss, 44, who left the job after the allegations came to light, was scheduled to go to trial this week. Instead she entered a guilty plea and a sentencing hearing is scheduled for Nov. 22.

Goss was arrested in October of 2016. She had been employed as a judicial administrative assistant since 2004.

The Hot Springs Sentinel Record said an affidavit filed in the case accused her of paying her personal bills and buying personal items with the credit card since 2011.

Garland County Comptroller Susan Ashmore discovered the discrepancies in May 2016 after Goss failed to pay county bills on time.

The newspaper said a legislative auditor discovered 3,722 charges made on the card between December 2011 and May 2016 and confirmed $70,523.64 in personal purchases made by Goss.

The auditor also identified $92,074.48 in additional purchases suspected to be personal in nature, based on the names of the businesses where the purchases were made. The total amount of unauthorized purchases was $162,598.

Goss apparently used the card to pay for her electric bills, cellphone bills, car payments, tickets to Arkansas Razorback games, her personal real estate taxes, pet insurance and a tuxedo for her dog.

Bali governor calls for crackdown on vendors and others selling dog meat

(Warning: This video contains graphic images)

The governor of Bali has called upon government agencies to stop the sale of dog meat after a news report showed that street vendors were selling cooked dog on a stick to unsuspecting tourists.

The report that shocked visitors to the island, and much of the rest of the world, was produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation program 7.30 and aired in June.

The program showed, often in graphic detail, the brutal methods used by dog meat traders, and how street vendors often lied to tourists, sometimes telling them the meat they were selling was chicken satay.

Drawing on a four-month undercover investigation by Animals Australia, the report showed how dogs were stolen, strangled, poisoned, shot, and bludgeoned to death before being butchered, barbecued and served on a stick to tourists enjoying themselves on the tropical island’s shores.

ABC.net reported this week that Governor Made Mangku Pastika — acknowledging the trade for the first time — has sent a letter to Indonesian ministers, police officials, veterinary and agriculture departments, calling for an end to the practice.

That dog meat is being sold, by vendors and in restaurants, is common knowledge to most locals — but it is kept low-key, and tourists are often not aware they are purchasing dog.

To protect “the image of Bali tourism”, the Governor’s letter called for a crackdown “against the sale of dog meat because it is not inspected and guaranteed to be healthy and can potentially spread zoonotic diseases, especially rabies and other fatal dangers.”

sateThe governor’s letter also ordered information be collected on where and by whom dog meat is being sold and a community education program to teach “that dog meat is not a food for consumption, especially for foreign tourists.”

After the report aired, Animals Australia launched a petition calling on Bali’s governor to immediately ban the dog meat trade and pass laws to outlaw extreme cruelty to all animals.

The governor’s letter may be more about protecting the tourist industry than safeguarding animal welfare. There have been calls for boycotts, and bad publicity threatens to tarnish public perceptions about the tropical island paradise.

“It is important to end the trade in Bali, especially to protect our culture and tourism industry, as well as to apply the national animal welfare law,” said Dr. Nata Kesuma, the head of Bali’s Livestock and Animal Health Services.

“I am sure we will be able to stop the dog meat trade if all relevant stakeholders are willing to cooperate and have the same vision, although it may take some time,” he added.

Others noted that much more could have been done.

“[It’s] a good first step but there’s a long way to go … the consumption of dog meat must be stopped,” said Janice Girardi, founder of Bali’s Animal Welfare Association, which estimates more than 70,000 animals are killed a year for food in Bali.

“This is not actually a ban on dog meat,” she added. “What is allowed and what is not allowed needs to be defined by government …”

Animals Australia’s Lyn White applauded the governor’s steps.

“While fueled by a small section of the community, the dog meat trade has been increasing rapidly in Bali, so the Government’s decision comes at a critical time,” she said.

“It’s a more than appropriate response to a trade that involves significant animal cruelty, presents a serious human health risk, and undermines rabies eradication programs.”

(Video showing highlights of the investigation and photo of a street vendor supplied by Animals Australia)