Something went horribly wrong with how we came to find out that some of the country’s best known brands of canned and pouched pet foods were killing our cats and dogs.
The pet deaths were first brought to our attention on March 16, when a recall of certain Menu pet-food products was announced. (Menu makes dozens of top-selling brands, including Iams, Special Kitty and Mighty Dog.) The news that some of us were feeding our beloved pets poisoned food produced a deep shudder. But the low number of FDA reported deaths (10 to 15 dogs and cats) was so tiny as to cause concern, not panic.
As it turned out, panic would have been advisable and, possibly, would have saved thousands of pets’ lives. That’s because that original low number only counted the tally of dead animals directly involved in tests at Menu’s test lab. As veterinarians across the country slowly came to realize this, they took to the Internet. Soon, it was clear the actual number of dead pets was closer to 3,000. Stunningly, loads of media outlets continued for weeks to report (and many are still reporting) that ridiculously low number.
Pet Connection editor Christie Keith and others have posed important questions about this awful saga: Why did it take a month after the first reported pet death for anyone to announce a recall? Why didn’t veterinarians get notification from the FDA to be on the lookout for spikes in pet kidney failures? Why did the FDA keep confirming an extremely low-ball number when it knew it represented only a fraction of the true scope of the problem?
We need answers to these questions. And we desperately need new policies that will eradicate the possibility of such a thing happening again.