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Tag: pet food

Feed the hungry … dogs

Mention the idea of food stamps for dogs and you’re likely to get one of two reactions:

Those touchy-feely animal lovers (such as me) will say it’s a great idea that could help keep dogs from being surrendered to shelters, abandoned, or worse, by owners who can’t afford to feed them anymore.

Those “It’s-just-a-dog” types will say its ludicrous, that they’d hate to see their tax dollars used for something like that, and that, if you can’t afford a dog, don’t get one in the first place.

When the idea does float to the surface, there’s usually some quick debate — then it vanishes as quickly as a bowl of kibble.

Now, in a way, the concept is back, and it’s being carried out on a national scale — with no involvement from government, and no use of tax dollars, it should be noted. It’s the mission of a nonprofit organization formed by a New York man who describes himself as a stockbroker, journalist, entrepreneur and business consultant — a frightful combination if ever there was one.

The organization is called Pet Food Stamps, though no stamps actually appear to be involved. Instead, low income individuals can submit applications, which, if approved, lead to six months worth of deliveries of dog food from Pet Flow, an online pet food store. It’s all to be funded through private donations, founder Marc Okon says.

Pet Food Stamps and Pet Flow announced their “exclusive partnership” in February:

“Pet Food Stamps aims to provide pet food for pets of families receiving public assistance and for food stamp recipients who otherwise could not afford to feed their pets. Based in New York City, the program is open to anyone in the United States. More than 80,000 pets have already been registered …”

Okon, 36, said the idea was inspired in part by a friend going through some economic hard times who told him “she sometimes fed her cat before herself,” Wall Street Journal columnist Al Lewis reported. Also, he says, doing something philanthropic helps remove the bad taste that remains from some of his previous employment experiences in corporate America.

Okon says he briefly worked for a firm that sold dubious medical benefits to seniors in the South. “Their whole corporate philosophy was to manipulate seniors who didn’t have any type of insurance,” he said. “I could only do that for about a week and half,” Okon said. The article calls him “a man so disgusted with the lack of ethics he witnessed in private enterprise that he founded a nonprofit to hand out dog food.”

While many a humane society operates similar programs on the local level, Pet Food Stamps says it has been swamped with applications — 45,000 in the first two weeks alone, according to a press release.

Okon says the applicants often describe how they’ve lost their jobs and homes.

“Millions of pets are surrendered to shelters each year and euthanized because their owners can’t afford to feed them,” he said.

Okon says he isn’t against the idea of the government providing food stamps for dogs, but that it’s not part of the current picture.

“We’re not looking for government funding at this point,” Okon told ABCNews.com. “Should the government be willing to provide assistance further down the line, we will look into it.”

It seems a noble idea, and we hope it’s nobly carried out — with enough transparency that dog lovers who make donations know exactly how much money the organization is receiving, how much of that is going to buy and ship dog food, and what profits, if any, the private dog food company is making.

We’d point out, too, that people unable to afford to feed their pets can check with their local humane society or SPCA to see what programs might be available in their area. Some food banks distribute dog food and cat food, and some chapters of Meals on Wheels deliver pet food, too.  In 2006, Meals on Wheels started the We All Love Our Pets (WALOP) initiative after finding some of their clients were sharing their meals with their pets because they couldn’t afford pet food.

For a state by state list of programs offering free and discounted services — from food to veterinary care — check out this Humane Society of the United States link.

The truth about the tsunami dog duo

Truth, always elusive, is even tougher to get a handle on in the chaotic aftermath of a tsunami — and that’s one reason the fate of the two dogs pictured in the now famous video of one stranded dog loyally watching over another remains obscure.

Despite reports from CNN, UK Telegraph, NPR, PETA and others that the dogs were rescued — all based solely on Facebook posts by Kenn Sakurai, the owner of a dog food supply company in Japan — their fates remain unclear and uncomfirmed.

The best account we can find is one prepared by Global Animal, an online animal magazine that, unlike most major media,  interviewed Sakurai, who is being described, without documentation, as both a savior or a charlatan in Internet posts 

Global Animal reports that Sakurai told them the two dogs were rescued by friends of his who are off-road bikers and that the dogs are being treated by an undisclosed veterinarian.

Sakurai posted on Facebook last week that the dogs had been saved — and on that page he also sought donations to continue what he described as his work rescuing animals left homeless by the tsunami.

Sakurai lists his occupation as president of Butch Japan, Inc., a dog food company. Oddly, for a self described animal lover, his Facebook page lists Michael Vick among his “favorite athletes.”

Sakurai has reportedly deleted all negative comments from the page — as well as those that questioned his involvement in rescuing the dogs.

Sakurai’s page says he was born in Tokyo, raised in Tokyo and the UK and went to school in Tokyo and New York City. He says he was involved with the development of Tokyo Disneyland and that he now is the importer of ”the safest dog and cat food on the planet.”

After the tsunami, he set up a paypal account so that people could donate to his effort, but, in his later posts on his Facebook page, he says he plans to donate that money to established shelters.

Still, many remain troubled that he has presented no photographic evidence that the two dogs are safe.

Global Animal reports: “Mr. Sakurai says he promised the bikers that he wouldn’t reveal the location of the veterinarian because they don’t want animal rescue organizations to take the dogs for their own fundraising purposes. This is why no pictures are being made available, claims Mr. Sakurai.”

In an editorial written by Arthur Jeon, co-founder of the online magazine, Sakurai is quoted as saying he would try and send the organization photos. But, the magazine said, “we are not hopeful that credible evidence will materialize.”

“Our best guess is that some difficult truth may be hidden here, and that either one or both dogs have died, possibly on the trip or shortly after. Or, that this is a story that got out of hand, perhaps being used to raise money by Mr. Sakurai himself, though he is not associated with any animal rescue organization that’s mobilized in the devastated areas.”

Global Animal provided readers interested in donating money to the animal rescue effort in Japan with a list of legitimate and long-standing animal rescue organizations.

The editorial concludes: “It’s human nature to yearn for a happy ending, to be able to move these dogs’ misery off our mental list of anguish and to find heroes in a horrible reality. It also makes for ‘good copy’ by mainstream news organizations who hit it for its feel-good elements, then move on. However, the web and Facebook are not good places to collect facts for substantiated reporting; these reputable news organizations know better.

“Ultimately, the two dogs … deserve the truth. As do we. If Mr. Sakurai responds with verifiable truth that the dogs are alive and well, nobody will be happier than the hardcore animal lovers and readers of Global Animal.”

Natural Balance recalls sweet potato blend

Natural Balance Pet Foods, Inc. is recalling its Sweet Potato & Chicken Dry Dog Food, with the “Best By” date of June 17, 2011, because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.

No illnesses have been reported, and the voluntary recall is based on “an isolated instance,” in which a product sample with the above “Best By” had a positive result for Salmonella in a random test conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The product, sold in 5-lb. and 28-lb. bags, was originally manufactured on December 17, 2009,  Natural Balance, based in Pacoima, California, said in a press release. The company was formed by actor Dick Van Patten and partners, and is sold under his name.

Salmonella can affect animals and there is a risk to humans from handling contaminated pet products. People handling dry pet food can become infected with Salmonella, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with surfaces exposed to this product.

Pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever and vomiting. Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Infected but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, the company advises you contact your veterinarian.

Recalled products were distributed in pet specialty stores in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

The recalled products have a UPC codes of 7-23633-99000-4 (5-lb. bag) and 7-23633-99002-8 (28-lb. bag). Consumers who have purchased the product are urged to return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. For more information, visit www.naturalbalanceinc.com.

Nature’s Variety expands voluntary recall

naturesvalleyNature’s Variety has expanded its voluntary recall of all Chicken Formula and Organic Chicken Formula products with a “Best If Used By” date on or before 2/5/11.

Nature’s Variety has received new test results from an outside facility that indicate that its Chicken Formula Raw Frozen Diet, issued under the ”Best If Used By” dates of 10/29/10 and 11/9/10, may be contaminated with Salmonella.

The company — out of an “abundance of caution,” it says — is also expanding the recall to include all Chicken Formula and Organic Chicken Formula Raw Frozen Diets for dogs and cats with any “Best If Used By” date on or before 2/5/11.

The products included in the expanded recall are:

UPC#7 69949 60130 2 – Chicken Formula 3 lb medallions
UPC#7 69949 60120 3 – Chicken Formula 6 lb patties
UPC#7 69949 60121 0 – Chicken Formula 2 lb single chubs
UPC#7 69949 50121 3 – Chicken Formula 12 lb retail display case of chubs
UPC#7 69949 60137 1 – Organic Chicken Formula 3 lb medallions
UPC#7 69949 60127 2 – Organic Chicken Formula 6 lb patties
The “Best If Used By” date is located on the back of the package above the safe handling instructions.

If you have purchased one of the affected products, you may return the unopened product to your local retail store to receive a complete refund, or exchange it for another variety. If your package has been opened, dispose of the raw food in a safe manner by securing it in a covered trash receptacle. Then, bring your receipt (or the empty package in a sealed bag) to your local retailer for a complete refund or replacement.

Guilty pleas filed in pet food scandal

The owners of a Las Vegas-based company that supplied wheat gluten tainted with melamine to pet food makers have agreed to plead guilty in connection with the widespread scandal that may have killed thousands of dogs and cats in 2007.

Stephen S. Miller, and his wife Sally Miller, co-owners of ChemNutra Inc., reached a plea agreement with prosecutors and will plead guilty at a hearing June 16, according to the Associated Press.

The information was contained in a court filing, and attorneys did not immediately respond to the AP’s calls seeking comment Tuesday. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office said the office couldn’t discuss any plea agreement until it had been approved by a judge.

The Millers and ChemNutra, along with two Chinese companies, were indicted in February 2008 on charges alleging they imported wheat gluten tainted with the chemical melamine, which was then sold to pet food makers. Thousands of cats and dogs reportedly sickened or died after eating the tainted food.

Read more »

PetSmart recalls Grreat Choice biscuits

PetSmart said late Tuesday it is recalling seven types of its Grreat Choice dog biscuits because of a salmonella concern.

The pet products retailer said the affected products contain peanut paste made by Peanut Corp. of America, whose Blakely, Georgia facility is currently the focus of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration salmonella probe.

PetSmart said it is not aware of any cases of illness related to the dog biscuits, and was conducting the recall as a precautionary measure.

Read more »

Skateboarding bulldogs in Rose Parade

Two renowned (at least on Youtube) skateboarding bulldogs — Tillman (above) and Tyson (below) will be taking part in the Rose Bowl Parade.

The dogs will be skateboarding on a track built around the Natural Balance float, which features a 15-foot long skateboard and a 16-foot tall bulldog made of flowers.

Now that’s entertainment.

The float is being sponsored by Natural Balance, the premium pet food line founded by Dick Van Patten and his son, Jimmy Van Patten.

This is the first time Natural Balance has participated in the annual Rose Parade. The custom made track encircling the float is being built by skate track designer Aaron Spohn. Tyson and Tillman will be accompanied on the float by Van Patten and his son.

In conjunction with the float, Natural Balance has announced a competition for the World’s Most Amazing Dog Contest. Dog owners all over the country are being asked to submit a video or photo of their dog which will be uploaded to the Natural Balance website and voted on by fans. The winner and their dog will join Tyson and Tillman on the Natural Balance float in the 2009 Rose Parade on January 1.

The winning submission will be chosen November 30th.

Visit the Natural Balance website for more information.