(Originally published September 2008. Updated August 2014.)

Just when you think you’ve seen it all and nothing would be too surprising to learn or read about the pet food industry, you stumble across something that causes your jaw to drop. I stumbled across something that proves once again – you can’t be too careful about the food and treats you give to your pet. Here is what I stumbled on…

First – a little background information. Back in 2002, the FDA released a report of their 2 year study/testing finding pentobarbital (the drug used to euthanize animals) in pet food. Their findings were that many brands of pet foods – purchased right off of store shelves – contained the euthanizing drug pentobarbital. With that finding, the FDA began an 8 week test to see if levels of pentobarbital in pet food could be harmful to pets. The FDA testing showed that the amounts of pentobarbital in pet food would not harm pets (their study only tested dogs). You should know that the FDA ran their testing on 42 twelve week old Beagles – and again the testing was only for 8 weeks.

Point number one – pentobarbital WAS found in many pet foods yet was determined by the FDA not to be harmful to pets. And one more time – the testing to determine this only lasted 8 weeks even though pets might be eating this euthanizing drug in food their entire life.

So, to the point of this post – I just stumbled upon a US Fish and Wildlife report that pentobarbital is considered an environmental hazard“responsible for the deaths of over 140 Bald and Golden Eagles in recent years – as well as numerous other wildlife and dogs.” Other wildlife named in the report were California Condors, Vultures, Hawks, Wood Storks, Gulls, Crows, Ravens, Bears, Lynxes, Foxes, Bobcats, and Cougars.

This report stated the reason the wildlife was exposed to pentobarbital is from access to euthanized carcasses of farm animals and small animals in land fills. “Poisonings due to accidental feeding of tainted meat to captive animals have also been reported.”

In big bold letters the report stated “Poisoning of eagles or other wild birds, even if accidental, violates Federal law!” This report also stated that Veterinarians and livestock owners have been recently fined for ‘involuntary killing’ of eagles. “Veterinarians must inform clients that a pentobarbital euthanized carcass is poisonous and requires proper disposal. The client needs to know that the carcass can poison and kill scavenging animals, including federally protected species, other wildlife, or even pet dogs.”

Point number two – Even though the FDA determined through their eight week test that pentobarbital in pet food was NOT harmful to our pets, the US Fish and Wildlife Agency is saying that pentobarbital euthanized carcasses is killing wildlife, including endangered species. Do we have a conflict between Federal Agencies?

As I wondered about the ‘conflict’ between the FDA and the US Fish and Wildlife Agency, I continued to dig a little further, and that’s when I found the jaw dropper…

From Code of Federal Regulations, Title 21, Volume 6, Sec. 522.900:

“Special considerations. Product labeling shall bear the following warning statements: ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARD: This product is toxic to wildlife. Birds and mammals feeding on treated animals may be killed. Euthanized animals must be properly disposed of by deep burial, incineration, or other method in compliance with state and local laws, to prevent consumption of carcass material by scavenging wildlife.”

And “Limitations. Do not use in animals intended for food. Federal law restricts this drug to use by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian.”

Does this federal law include pet ‘food’? It should. No pet ‘food’ should include a euthanized animal (no animal food should include a euthanized animal).

Personally, I think the FDA should again test pet food for pentobarbital and ANY dog food, cat food, dog treat, or cat treat (and any other animal feed for that matter) that contains even the slightest bit of the drug – the manufacturer should be heavily fined. With respect to our national treasures – the Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles…“The laws provide for substantial fines and prison sentences in criminal cases. For example, the maximum fine for violating the Eagle Act is $100,000.00 for a person or $200,000.00 for an organization and one year in prison.” Under Federal Law ‘intent’ in not required for conviction – criminal convictions require the violation be ‘knowingly’ committed. With respect to our pets…we’ve got a ‘knowingly’ committed act. The guilty pet food manufacturers knowingly purchase ingredients that contain pentobarbital. Yet no one fines them for breaking the law.

Eagles are a national treasure. I’ve been blessed to see a wild Eagle once (so far) in my lifetime. But our pets are a treasure as well. They enhance our lives. They might not be a national symbol – but they are a family symbol. They ARE family.


Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,

Susan Thixton
Pet Food Safety Advocate
Author Buyer Beware, Co-Author Dinner PAWsible
Association for Truth in Pet Food

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