Stories like these are rarely shared publicly, and I believe that should change. How a pet food company treats the customer when they receive a report your pet died or became ill believed to be linked to a food or treat. Here is a very recent example of how a consumer is treated by a pet food company when the worst is reported to them.
Georgia was a healthy, vibrant King Charles Cavalier Spaniel. She had just passed her five year old check up with flying colors. Caroline K. – Georgia’s Mom – told me Georgia loved everyone.
Caroline was upstairs in her home that evening. Her twelve year old son came upstairs to report that Georgia had gotten sick (vomited). Within two or three minutes, her son returned – crying – that he couldn’t wake Georgia up. This twelve year old was the first to find the dog, he picked up her body – placed Georgia on the couch – trying to wake her up – and ran to his Mom for help. Georgia was gone.
Georgia had been eating Beneful Healthy Weight for the past 2 1/2 years. Within 30 minutes after a serving from a brand new bag of Beneful, Georgia began to vomit and lost control of her bowels. Five minutes later she laid down and died.
Georgia was buried that evening. Caroline couldn’t sleep. In replaying the events of this horrible evening in her head – “a brand new bag” of dog food kept replaying in her head. In the early hours of the next morning, Caroline did an Internet search of the phrase “dog dies after eating Beneful” – the next nightmare begins.
Caroline quickly learned of many similar reports of pet death and illness linked to Beneful Pet Food on Consumer Affairs website. She also found TruthaboutPetFood.com. I suggested she report Georgia’s death to FDA, her State Department of Agriculture, and to Beneful (Purina).
Within a couple of hours of reporting to her Dept of Agriculture, investigators were on the road (four hour trip each way) to collect a sample of the dog food. They also purchased a new bag, same lot, from the same Walmart the food was purchased from. Test results are pending.
When the death of her dog was reported to Beneful/Purina, she was offered “free dog food coupons”. A few days later, Purina called her ready to discuss a claim (Department of Agriculture had been in contact with Purina). This conversation was reported to me to be similar to this…
Purina Claims Representative (Jake Williams – Claim #B264661024-001-01): What do you want?
Caroline: I want my dog back.
Purina Claims Representative: We can’t do that, do you want money? Would you like a new dog?
Caroline stated to me she was insulted that money was offered. As the conversation continued Caroline was urging the Purina Claims Representative to pull the pet food from store shelves until it was safe, repeating that her dog was just at the vet and was healthy, the Purina Representative told her:
‘Dogs die all the time’.
‘Dogs can’t tell you when they are sick.’
‘A veterinarian can’t tell when a dog is really sick.’
And ‘you should have gotten an autopsy’ (Caroline stated she felt Mr. Williams was insinuating she was negligent).
The offer from Purina was $250.00 (and offered before the Department of Agriculture investigation was complete). Mr. Williams told Caroline:
‘Purina was gracious in offering $250.00, most pet food companies wouldn’t offer you anything’.
Caroline refused the $250 offer, and told Mr. Williams she would instead contact her local media. At this point in the conversation, Mr. Williams hung up on her in mid-sentence.
Caroline and her family are still waiting for test results from the Arkansas Department of Agriculture.
I have heard many similar stories from pet owners involving numerous pet food manufacturers; almost exactly the same. A beloved pet dies or is seriously injured by a pet food or treat, and the manufacturer Claims Representative is cold, insensitive and frequently rude. I’ve lost track of the times pet owners have shared the pet food representative hung up on them during the conversation. From the many stories that have been shared with me, $250.00 is a typical offer. And it is typical this ‘offer’ comes with a signature on a non-disclosure statement as well (silence).
I don’t have the answer of the perfect way for a pet food manufacturer to handle such a situation with the exception of prevention. Prevention is the only answer. Exceptional quality control and quality of ingredients should be the standard (instead of the unusual) of any food product consumed by humans and animals.
I do believe pet food consumers can collectively help hold pet food manufacturers accountable in sharing how companies treat them just as Caroline did (I’m going to do my part by sharing these stories as well).
In the meantime…
We (pet food consumers) are not pointing fingers at any one company. Industry wide – we are wanting to be treated with respect. We are wanting the deaths of our pets to stop. We want transparency. Transparency to quality of ingredients, transparency to quality control, transparency to country of origin of each and every ingredient.
We want pet food to stop telling us you have received no other complaints; we’re not stupid – the Internet shares with us hundreds of other reports of illnesses or deaths in some cases.
We want pet food to investigate each and every report of a sick pet to the fullest extent. (Pretend your pet’s life depends on this investigation.) Share every aspect of the investigation with us (transparency again).
We want the FDA and each State Department of Agriculture to investigate each claim to the fullest extent, sharing every aspect of the investigation process with us. In line with prevention, we want inspections of each pet food/treat facility to be public information – immediately after each inspection.
Much has to change.
I thank Caroline for agreeing to sharing her story – our thoughts are with you and your family as you grieve your beautiful Georgia.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,