Pet Food News

Update on Dogswell Jerky Treat Withdraw

It turns out, the New York Department of Agriculture pulled a Dogswell treat from store shelves in January 2013 – but didn’t test it until July 6, 2013.  And, either I misunderstood the Dogswell representative, or some of their statement to me was less than complete.  Here’s the latest information…

The Dogswell jerky treat withdrawal was announced late Friday July 26, 2013.  On Monday, phone calls were made to Dogswell and to the New York Department of Agriculture who found illegal drug residues in the Dogswell treats (and in Waggin Train, Milo’s Kitchen, and Hartz jerky treats in January 2013).  Tuesday I get to speak to both parties and learn that the illegal antibiotic sulfaclozine was found in the Dogswell treats.

Dogswell’s Brad Armistead told me something very concerning.  When I asked how the treat could have been found to contain an illegal antibiotic in July – when their press release states they had been testing for illegal drugs since January, the conversation went like this (to the best of my recollection)…

Me:  Your press release states that Dogswell started testing your jerky treats in January – if that’s correct, then why didn’t you find the illegal drugs as NY Department of Agriculture did (in July)?

Brad:  The New York Department of Agriculture tested our treat back in January.  The product was already on store shelves – we started testing in January but that was new imports.

Me:  The New York Department of Agriculture tested your treat in January?  Then why is the withdrawal just happening now?

Brad:  They tested the treat in January, but they didn’t notify us until July 22.

Me:  What?  They tested your treats in January but they didn’t notify you until July 22 – six months later?

Brad:  Yes.

Me:  Did they send you a letter stating this?  Can I have a copy of that letter?

Brad:  I’m hesitant on giving you the letter. (I got the impression – at the time – he was concerned it would be inappropriate regulatory wise to give me a copy of the letter).  But I can share that they the date they notified us is July 22.

Me:  This is really bad.  I will get back in touch with NY Department of Agriculture.

And I sent the NY Department of Agriculture the following questions.  Below are their responses…(received late in the day Wednesday July 31, 2013)…

Dogswell told me NY Dept of Ag tested their treats in January – yet only notified the company on 7/22/13 – six months later.  Is this correct?  When did NY Dept of Ag test Dogswell jerky treats?

“The samples were collected in January.  They were then put into our testing queue and tested in the order they were received – standard practice as the laboratory analyzes over 20,000 food and beverage samples each year.  In addition, testing for this particular sample is done on a single instrument that is heavily relied upon.  Sample testing was initiated on June 7 and involved a process called “extraction”. The sample extracts were run on the instrument (LC/MS/MS) on July 6.”

What is NY Dept of Ag protocol in reporting an illegal substance – adulterated product?

“In keeping with established protocols, the presence of the antibiotic in the Dogswell Chicken Jerky treats was classified as a Class 2 recall.  Upon classification of a Class 2 recall we forwarded the report to the appropriate staff to contact the company and initiate a recall.”

Was FDA notified of your test results?  If so, when was FDA notified?

“It is our policy to contact FDA of Class 2 recalls upon completion of the recall (we send them copies of our completed recall packets), however, since in this case Dogswell issued a press release, FDA was informed by that press release (press releases are not required for Class 2 recalls, Dogswell did so voluntarily).”

So…this is different than what Dogswell stated to me.  Dogswell stated their treats were tested in January – NY Department of Agriculture stated the treats were pulled from shelves in January but not tested until July.  Another call would need to be made to Dogswell.  (Note – I received the response from NY Dept of Ag around 6/6:30 in the evening – my plans were to call them the next day.)

And at 10 PM that night my phone rings.  It says Dogswell on caller ID.  It’s Brad Armistead.

Brad:  Hi Susan, I just want to clarify something.  The New York Department of Agriculture pulled a sample of our treats from store shelves in January, but they didn’t test them until July.

(I already knew this – but Brad didn’t know I knew.)

Me:  Brad, that’s not what you told me yesterday.  You told me the treat was tested in January.  I was so upset about that I even asked you about it several times.

Brad:  Well, that’s why I wanted to call and clarify.

Me:  Couple of things Brad.  One, it’s 10 o’clock at night here.  You know I’m located in Florida.  Two, I don’t feel you were completely honest with me.  It feels like I was misled.  I represent consumers and I can tell you for certain, consumers are sick of being misled.  We need companies to be completely transparent.  I heard from NY Department of Agriculture, and I know they pulled your treat from store shelves in January, but didn’t test it until July 6.  Transparency Brad – that’s all we are asking for.

Brad:  I apologize for calling so late.  I just wanted to clarify things.

Me.  Ok, thanks for calling.

It could be that Dogswell’s Brad Armistead meant to explain things better – it could be he had been talking to many different media people and just neglected to share the whole story with me.  Or it could be this was a bad mistake (trying to divert the attention to the NY Dept of Ag instead of Dogswell).  Only Brad Armistead knows for certain which it was.

But the problems still remain…

  • In January of 2013, the New York Department of Agriculture tested numerous imported from China jerky treats and found them to contain illegal drug residues.  Without them – many more dogs would be dying and suffering kidney failure today.
  • In January of 2013, the New York Department of Agriculture pulled another jerky treat imported from China from stores shelves (Dogswell), but somehow it did not get tested for illegal drug residues until six months later.
  • An excessive amount of scientific evidence that these illegal sulfa drugs was the cause of the Fanconi like symptoms of the dogs that died and suffered kidney failure was sent to FDA (numerous individuals) and to every State Department of Agriculture.  Yet to date (six months later) FDA has not acknowledged the science provided them.
  • An excessive amount of import documents was sent to FDA (numerous individuals) and to every State Department of Agriculture linking the Chinese manufacturers of treats that tested positive for illegal drugs to numerous other brands (including Dogswell).  Yet to date (six months later) many other brands of Chinese imported jerky treats remain on store shelves risking the lives of countless dogs.

I just shake my head at how reckless this whole jerky treat situation has been.  It took almost six years of FDA investigation until a contaminant was found (and not found by FDA).  Too many pets have died.  Too many families have been torn to pieces with the death of a pet.  When will it end?


Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,

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

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August 2, 2013

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14 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Update on Dogswell Jerky Treat Withdraw”

  1. Barbara says:

    Hi Susan,

    What a merry-go-round! Just looked up sulfaclozine:

    Oral broad-spectrum antibiotic intended for treatment of coccidiosis and specific bacterial diseases in poultry.

    VERY INTERESTING! This whole situation is a disgrace and the agencies involved as well!!

  2. I knew it would be a sulfonamide.

    • LabsRawesome says:

      I bought a small bag of Milo’s Kitchen treats when they first came out. But they are too expensive, and I’d rather spend my money on good dog food. At the time I felt kinda guilty that I couldn’t afford the “good” treats for my dogs. I am SO glad that I couldn’t afford them now!! 🙂

  3. lettucehavewhirledpeas7 says:

    Our local chain store removed all the Dogswell chicken treats last week. My glee was short-lived, because yesterday a slew of “new” Dogswell chicken treats were packing the shelves. Their Best Before dates are 5-5-2015, (the stated cutoff date to be removed from shelves is Jan 29, 2015). Is this correct?
    What I am curious about is what magically happened between 1/29/2015 and 5/5/2015?
    Dogswell states, “Any product with a “Best Before” date after that time has been tested for unapproved antibiotics and has been cleared.” They fail to mention who tested and cleared them; maybe it’s same fox that has been guarding the henhouse.
    OR possibly by some miracle China has discontinued their illegal “unapproved” antibiotic use after Jan 29, 2015; or discontinued its use three days before slaughter?
    OR Dogswell changed their manufacturers in China, which are the same ones who made the recalled Waggin’ Train, Canyon Creek and Milo’s Kitchen?
    OR the treats from Jan to May 2015 and later are in a queue at the NY Dept of Ag.?
    Just wondering.

    • Well, Mom, I have to agree with you recalls are screwy. At times they are illogical, inconsistent and are usually frustrating to understand. In this case, the recall was chosen from the date that the offending product was made. Depending on a number of variables, many of which are never made public, the manufacturer could decide to expand the recall to include a much wider product selection and extend the recall back to all dates previous to the ‘Best By’ date of the contaminated product. One can never be certain if their reasons for doing so were that they were under investigation by the FDA or whether internal testing revealed that additional products were contaminated. I would assume that any manufacturer under the scrutiny of a recall would be doing everything they could to stop the hemorrhage by employing every measure to assure that it wouldn’t happen again. For example, that they test and hold all relevant product in current production and all incoming ingredients. Otherwise, further recalls could erode an already fragile reputation and destroy consumer trust. Testing methods are not fool-proof and not every single product can be tested. It is up to the manufacturer to test incoming ingredients before they are used in their product – especially if they come from a high-risk country such as China. Since there is no system that guarantees the safety of food, I would think that gambling on China would be too great a risk unless they had boots on the ground in China. Even then, one can never be certain. And it is a risk I wouldn’t take – at least not when it came to the safety of food for my pets.

  4. PJ says:

    I had a similar circular email conversation a few years ago when Dogswell was keeping secret their China connection. They (owner Marco) were quite adamant that their chicken products were U.S. made. Upon several expressions of skepticism, he fessed up, even emailing me a picture of one of their chickens! But, he tried to convince me that they closely monitored production of their treats, visiting once per month! Not too long after that, he was the cover story in Pet Food Industry magazine, bragging that they essentially would be taking over the pet treat industry, becoming the biggest & the best. The distributor I buy from is showing new Dogswell products every other month, with the latest a raw based treat. I have discontinued carrying all Dogswell products in my shop & my customers have discontinued purchasing their products, citing deception as one of the reasons (the “made in China” reference is nearly microscopic on their bags). Brad could have mis-spoke but I believe they have a history of providing misleading information; whether intentional or accidental, couldn’t say.

  5. Ann says:

    You may have gotten the call from Brad “out of the blue” at 10pm on Wed because Brad and the NY Dept of Ag had probably either spoken to each other about your call/questions and his response or perhaps the NY Dept of Ag copied Brad the email they sent to you on Wed around 6-6:30pm and asked Brad for an explanation of his version of events. NY Dept of Ag may have rightfully chewed him out for attempting to place the onus on them and directed Brad to set the record straight.
    It is a bit too much of a coincidence to think they had not had contact of some type with each other about your questions.
    This is just my two cents on why you suddenly heard from Brad so late in the day. I didn’t see any comment by Brad stating that what you had understood was somehow miscontrued, just that he wanted to “clarify” his incorrect statements to you. Someone or something highly motivated him to quickly set the record straight with you and it was probably the party he maligned – NY Dept of Ag.

  6. Noe says:

    I agree that Dogswell has a history of providing misleading information. When I first heard of all the issues regarding chinese chicken jerky, way before the FDA did anything about it, I called Dogswell (the only brand my shop carried) and asked about it. They told me that although their treats were made in China, they followed very strict testing protocols, and had their own factories over there, and assured me that their treats were very safe. I felt strange about it, and decided to pull the treats (and all Chinese pet treats) regardless of what they said. Now, years later, I’m so glad I did. I wouldn’t trust Dogswell. The company is obviously in it for the money, not for the pets.

  7. chad says:

    Anytime a person feeds their dog a ridiculously high protein, very low fat/moisture treat they are asking for trouble. I have seen the same problems occur in dogs fed U.S. made jerky treats.But since the greater majority of jerky treats are made in China the link is automatically deduced it is chinese jerky treats. Feeding a 15 lb ederly dog jerky treats on a daily basis is the problem……..

    • Ann says:

      Really? You think the sulfa antibiotics that were found in the treats are harmless and the only problem is that I fed my 22 lb dog one chicken jerky treat per day for three weeks and that is what almost killed her?
      Glad I am not your pet.

  8. Noe says:

    Chad, what do you mean exactly? Do you mean that all-meat treats shouldn’t be overfed, as a weight-gain issue? As far as I know (and as owner of a natural pet food/supply shop, I believe I know quite a bit), all-meat treats are actually very healthy for dogs – as long as they don’t have illegal antibiotics/radiation/salmonella/etc, of course. Am I missing something?

  9. chad says:

    I am not saying the contaminants found are not a concern. Yes they are. I am also not saying no one should occasionally feed meaty treats.

    What I am saying is there are other factors involved with this. A High Protein, low fat, low moisture treat on a daily basis in a small dog is very stressful on their organs during digestion. Factor in age and even more so.

    I own a small retail “natural” pet food store as well. I am a huge advocate for Raw diets…etc…

    All of my customers that buy Jerky treats are warned that a little goes a long way. One customer did not heed my advise. Fed one treat a day to her 15 lb yorkie daily. yorkie had kidney problems three months later. The treats were U.S. made.

    What I am saying is there is more involved with this than just China jerky treats, select brands and what not.

    The study of the numbers I read on this from last year indicate that 75% of the dogs that came down with Organ problems that were fed China made Jerky treats were also senior classified dogs…..

    My point being, don’t assume U.S. made Jerky treats will not have very similar results in our pets. there is a reason I don’t feed my dogs very much of the jerky I make myself….

  10. CAP says:

    I just bought Breathies Chicken treats for dogs this week, not knowing any of this history. My dog has eaten them only 3 days, but I am now scared of what might happen. For whatever reason, my dog was not feeling so chipper today….and I just won’t risk it.

    I don’t know how any company who cares about its reputation and customer base would make anything in China.

  11. Kim says:

    I am highly health conscious when it comes to food and what goes into my family and pets. I’m very adamant about reading labels and could’ve sworn that these stupid Dogswell jerky treats stated made in USA; however, just checked the current bag and it plainly says made in China in small print back of bag on very bottom! WTF!?!? I feel like beating the SHIT out of the greedy, money hungry Arthur Dogswell group of morons!!! I bought my last bag of the jerky @ Natural Grocers. I am friends with the manager and will suggest they stop the sale of such an inferior unhealthy product in their “healthy” stores.

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