The Bark has been caught in the middle of the war between celebrities and the paparazzi — actress Eva Mendes was recently quoted that she’d prefer publications blur the faces of her dog, Hugo, a Belgian Malinois, and her boyfriend Ryan Gosling’s pup, George (a mixed breed who has a very distinctive “Mohawk” fur-do) so that they are unrecognizable. “I’ll go somewhere and they’ll be like, ‘Hey, Hugo!’ and I’m like, ‘How do you know Hugo’s name? That’s so creepy!’ ”.
Ms. Mendes has been in the news lately regarding testing a shock collar on herself she was considering for her dog in an effort to protect smaller dogs who may be at risk by Hugo’s exuberant play style. But in calling for her dog’s privacy has she gone too far? Bill Berloni, an entertainment industry dog trainer known for putting the pooches in the Broadway show “Annie” through their paces, said Mendes is smart to be cautious.
“With celebrity comes the price of fame,” Berloni is quoted in an article that appears in today’s Boston Herald. “There are crazy stalkers out there that want a piece of any celebrity, their clothing, a piece of their privacy. I don’t think she’s overreacting. I think she’s wise.” Bark’s publisher, Cameron Woo, weighed in as well, though his statement is taken slightly out of context … “I’ve actually never heard of someone requesting they blur out pictures of their dogs,” Woo said. “People are protective of their family. I know they do that often with their children for exactly that kind of safeguarding, but I’ve not heard that with dogs. It would be kind of hard to see a photograph of a dog and come upon that dog on the street and recognize her.”
The bit they left out? “ … unless the dog was attached to a leash with Eva Mendes at the end …”
What do you think? Do dogs have a right to privacy—free of paparazzi?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
It may also have a problem
The Wow Wow Dog Circus in Tachikawa City, Japan tours schools, with dogs performing such tricks as jumping rope in a group of dogs or with a person, walking across objects raised off the ground and balancing as they walk on a rolling ball.
Many dogs in Japan are abandoned or killed each year, and this program is part of an effort to make that less common. The goal is an admirable one, and reaching out to children is an excellent strategy.
It concerns me, though, that with one exception, the dogs in this video do not seem happy. Twice in this 53-second video, dogs are seen yawning, which is a sign of stress. Almost all of the dogs have tension in their faces. Only one dog has that relaxed open-mouth expression that indicates a level of comfort with the situation. (The dog I’m referring to is the one who looks like a sesame-colored Shiba Inu and is wearing blue.)
It’s unfortunate that the very organization that is supposed to teach kids how to do right by dogs seems to be stressing its dogs. It’s hard to say whether they are objecting to the training, the activities, the presence of the kids, or perhaps the film crew, but sadly, these dogs don’t look happy to me. On the bright side, the kids seem to be enjoying the dogs a lot, which means that there is a strong likelihood that they are hearing the message that it’s important to take good care of dogs.
Dozer setting the pace
Dozer is dog who’s just gotta run. A young Goldendoodle full of energy and mischief, Dozer decided to join a Maryland half-marathon, mid-race. He simply couldn’t resist tagging along as two thousand runners passed right in front of his yard.
The joy in Dozer’s face as he paces himself with the runners is obvious and contagious. As he nears the finish line, you can see his paws are muddy – he must have found his own water station, probably a stream. Not only did Dozer have fun, so did the runners who ran beside him, and his story inspired people to donate to a worthy cause.
A runner like Dozer completely changed my own life with dogs.
I had recently graduated from law school and was living in a small, rural town in eastern Washington. It was autumn 1984 and I was dog-less for the first time in my life. One morning, running with a friend on country roads a couple miles outside town, a Siberian husky suddenly appeared beside us, joining us. Fearing he would get lost, I said rather sternly, “Go home!” The dog ignored me. He trotted alongside us with an easy, relaxed stride for a few miles, smiling as only a happy dog can. He didn’t seek attention from us. He just wanted to run, and we were running. It was that simple. I was impressed with his beauty and athleticism. Then, as suddenly as he had appeared, he changed direction and disappeared.
I felt sad he was gone – it was a joy to have him join us – but didn’t think much more about it.
Until a week later, when he suddenly reappeared and accompanied us on another morning run. I happily welcomed him. “Hey Buddy, how are you?” He remained aloof, easily trotting beside us but not coming close for a pet. I longed to see if he had a tag, but didn’t want to spook him. This time, he followed us all the way home, right onto my porch, where he let me stroke his soft, thick fur. By now, I’d fallen in love with him. Until that moment, I’d not thought of a dog as a runner. I’d grown up with small dogs. Now, I wanted a canine running companion in my life. If this husky didn’t have a family, I wanted him. But by the time I had showered and returned to the porch to check on him, he was gone.
I never saw him again. Yet he left an indelible impression on my heart. I’ve had a least one road and trail running dog in my life since 1985. I believe there’s a special bond developed when human and canine trot alongside each other, doing what their bodies were designed to do, endorphins coursing.
Here’s to Dozer and all our dogs who remind to go outside and play.
(Revised 3/21/13) The FDA just issued the following recall notification for a wide assortment of Natura Pet Products brand pet foods. The FDA notice follows the one that the company posted on their website a couple of days ago. We are still trying to find out what the production problem was that resulted in such a large-scale recall, but have been unable to speak with a spokesperson for Procter & Gamble, the owner of Natura. The company’s original post, with the list of recalled products, follows the one from the FDA.
Natura Pet Issues Voluntary Recall of Specialized Dry Pet Foods Due to Possible Health Risk
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -March 18, 2013 - Natura Pet Products is voluntarily recalling specific lots of dry pet food because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. No Salmonella-related illnesses have been reported.
Salmonella can affect animals eating the products and there is risk to humans from handling contaminated pet products, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with the products or any surfaces exposed to these products.
Healthy people infected with Salmonella should monitor themselves for some or all of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever. Rarely, Salmonella can result in more serious ailments, including arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation, and urinary tract symptoms. Consumers exhibiting these signs after having contact with this product should contact their healthcare providers.
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, please contact your veterinarian.
These products were made in a single production facility during a two week window in December 2012. Routine testing by the Michigan Department of Agriculture collected from a single retail location tested positive for the presence of Salmonella. As a precautionary measure, Natura is voluntarily recalling all products from this production window.
The affected products are sold in bags through veterinary clinics, select pet specialty retailers, and online in the United States, Canada, Korea, Malaysia, Japan, Hong Kong, and Costa Rica. Product expiration dates range from 12/17/2013 – 1/2/2014. Product was distributed by Natura Pet Products between December 18, 2012 through March 15, 2013. No other dry food, canned food, biscuits, bars or treats are affected by this announcement.
A complete list of products in the scope of this recall are listed at the end of this release. Additional information on these products can be found at www.naturapet.com.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
10903 New Hampshire Avenue
This notice appeared on the Natura site.
Dear Valued Customer,
Natura Pet is voluntarily recalling specific California Natural, Innova, EVO, and Healthwise dry dog, cat, and ferret SKUs as a precautionary measure due to potential Salmonella contamination. No Karma, Mother Nature, wet or treat products are included in this recall. No illnesses have been reported from the recalled product and no other P&G Pet Care brands are impacted by this recall.
We were alerted to a single case of Salmonella in a 2.2lb package of EVO Turkey & Chicken Cat Food. We are taking the precautionary measure to voluntarily recall the entire production window that was produced from December 17-January 2. We believe this action is consistent with our ongoing commitment to product quality and animal and human safety.
Salmonella and other contaminants pose a great challenge to the food industry. No company is immune. We have fully investigated and identified the cause of this incident, and will continue to review and improve upon our manufacturing standards. The Fremont plant is in full production to quickly resupply any potential gaps.
The voluntary recall is limited to the SKUs listed on the attached document with specific lot codes and expiration dates. No other Natura Products are impacted and should be sold and fed with confidence. Please see the attached for specific SKUs, location of lot code data and expiration dates of impacted products.
What to do if you have this product in your store or warehouse:
Managers or designee should immediately secure all affected SKUs to an isolated location. Product should be secured/segregated from saleable product. Your Natura Sales Representative or distributor will be in contact with further instructions. If you need additional information please call 800.224.6123. We apologize for any inconvenience this situation may cause, and want to assure you that Natura Pet is taking all the necessary steps to ensure our product quality meets your expectations.
Global Pet Care CBD Leader
Impacted Lot Number
7 51485 39941 6
CN DG 15LB KANGAROO GF
7 51485 15987 4
CN DG 25x4OZ KANGAROO GF SAMPLES
7 51485 39940 9
CN DG 30LB KANGAROO GF
7 51485 12564 0
CN DG 30LB KANGAROO GF BLNGL
7 51485 39942 3
CN DG 5x5LB KANGAROO GF
Impacted Lot Number
7 51485 42101 8
EVO 5x6.6LB TK&CK FERRET
7 51485 41402 7
EVO CT & KT 12x2.2LB TK&CK
7 51485 41400 3
EVO CT & KT 15.4LB TK&CK
7 51485 41401 0
EVO CT & KT 5x6.6LB TK&CK
7 51485 41412 6
EVO CT 12x2.2LB HRRG&SLMN
7 51485 41410 2
EVO CT 15.4LB HRRG&SLMN
7 51485 15251 6
EVO CT 25x4OZ HRRG&SLMN SAMPLES
7 51485 15250 9
EVO CT 25x4OZ TK&CK SAMPLES
7 51485 41411 9
EVO CT 5x6.6LB HRRG&SLMN
7 51485 12676 0
EVO DG 13.2LB RED MEAT LARGE BITE
7 51485 12686 9
EVO DG 13.2LB TK&CK SR
7 51485 12617 3
EVO DG 13.2LB TK&CK WEIGHT MGMT
7 51485 15255 4
EVO DG 25x4OZ TK&CK SAMPLES
7 51485 15205 9
EVO DG 25x4OZ TK&CK WEIGHT MGMT SAMPLES
7 51485 12675 3
EVO DG 28.6LB RED MEAT LARGE BITE
7 51485 12685 2
EVO DG 28.6LB TK&CK SR
7 51485 12616 6
EVO DG 28.6LB TK&CK WEIGHT MGMT
7 51485 12677 7
EVO DG 5x6.6LB RED MEAT LARGE BITE
7 51485 12687 6
EVO DG 5x6.6LB TK&CK SR
7 51485 12618 0
EVO DG 5x6.6LB TK&CK WEIGHT MGMT
Impacted Lot Number
7 51485 70721 1
HW DG 17.5LB CK&OT WT CONTROL
7 51485 70741 9
HW DG 17.5LB LMB&OT
7 51485 15442 8
HW DG 25x4OZ CK&OT WT CONTROL SAMPLES
7 51485 15444 2
HW DG 25x4OZ LMB&OT SAMPLES
7 51485 70720 4
HW DG 35LB CK&OT WT CONTROL
7 51485 70740 2
HW DG 35LB LMB&OT
7 51485 70722 8
HW DG 5x5LB CK&OT WT CONTROL
7 51485 70742 6
HW DG 5x5LB LMB&OT
7 51485 70731 0
HW PPY 17.5LB CKN&BR RICE
7 51485 15443 5
HW PPY 25x4OZ CKN&BR RICE SAMPLES
7 51485 70730 3
HW PPY 35LB CKN&BR RICE
7 51485 70732 7
HW PPY 5x5LB CKN&BR RICE
Impacted Lot Number
7 51485 41387 7
IN CT 12x2.2LB TK&CK
7 51485 41603 8
IN CT 12x2.2LB TK&CK SR 8 PLUS
7 51485 41391 4
IN CT 12x2.2LB TK&CK WEIGHT MGMT
7 51485 41392 1
IN CT 15LB TK&CK
7 51485 41607 6
IN CT 15LB TK&CK SR 8 PLUS
7 51485 41389 1
IN CT 15LB TK&CK WEIGHT MGMT
7 51485 15995 9
IN CT 25x4OZ TK&CK SAMPLES
7 51485 15998 0
IN CT 25x4OZ TK&CK SR 8 PLUS SAMPLES
7 51485 15988 1
IN CT 25x4OZ TK&CK WEIGHT MGMT SAMPLES
7 51485 41393 8
IN CT 5x6LB TK&CK
7 51485 41608 3
IN CT 5x6LB TK&CK SR 8 PLUS
7 51485 41390 7
IN CT 5x6LB TK&CK WEIGHT MGMT
7 51485 12731 6
IN DG 12LB BF&LMB GF PRIME
7 51485 12728 6
IN DG 12LB HRRG&SLMN GF PRIME
7 51485 12363 9
IN DG 12LB SLMN & HRRG
7 51485 12376 9
IN DG 12x2.2LB TK&CK LARGE BITE ADULT
7 51485 12321 9
IN DG 15LB TK&CK LARGE BITE ADULT
7 51485 12705 7
IN DG 15LB TK&CK LRG BREED
7 51485 12327 1
IN DG 15LB TK&CK SR PLUS 11 PLUS
7 51485 12730 9
IN DG 25LB BF&LMB GF PRIME
7 51485 12727 9
IN DG 25LB HRRG&SLMN GF PRIME
7 51485 12362 2
IN DG 25LB SLMN & HRRG
7 51485 15300 1
IN DG 25x4OZ TK&CK LARGE BREED SAMPLES
7 51485 15990 4
IN DG 25X4OZ TK&CK LRG BITE SAMPLES
7 51485 15310 0
IN DG 25x4OZ TK&CK SR PLUS 11 PLUS SAMPLES
7 51485 12552 7
IN DG 30LB TK&CK LARGE BITE (BL)
7 51485 12320 2
IN DG 30LB TK&CK LARGE BITE ADULT
7 51485 12554 1
IN DG 30LB TK&CK LGR BREED (BL)
7 51485 12704 0
IN DG 30LB TK&CK LRG BREED
7 51485 12326 4
IN DG 30LB TK&CK SR PLUS 11 PLUS
7 51485 12732 3
IN DG 5x5LB BF&LMB GF PRIME
7 51485 12729 3
IN DG 5x5LB HRRG&SLMN GF PRIME
7 51485 12364 6
IN DG 5x5LB SLMN & HRRG
7 51485 12322 6
IN DG 5x6LB TK&CK LARGE BITE ADULT
7 51485 12328 8
IN DG 5x6LB TK&CK SR PLUS 11 PLUS
7 51485 15313 1
IN DG GF 25x4oz HRRG&SLMN GF PRIME SAMPLES
7 51485 12365 3
IN DG GF 25x4oz SLMN & HRRG SAMPLES
7 51485 12333 2
IN PPY 15LB TK&CK
7 51485 12741 5
IN PPY 15LB TK&CK LGR BREED
7 51485 15302 5
IN PPY 25x4OZ TK&CK LARGE BREED SAMPLES
7 51485 15994 2
IN PPY 25x4OZ TK&CK SAMPLES
7 51485 12332 5
IN PPY 30LB TK&CK
7 51485 12740 8
IN PPY 30LB TK&CK LGR BREED
7 51485 12334 9
IN PPY 5x6LB TK&CK
7 51485 12742 2
IN PPY 5x6LB TK&CK LGR BREED
Coming together at Best Friends
In 2008 Best Friends Animal Society took in 22 dogs rescued from Michael Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels. On March 11, six of the dogs and their families came together again at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary to mark five years of freedom. Vicktory dogs. Watch Cherry, Handsome Dan, Halle, Little Red, Mel, Oscar and their families in their joyous reunion.
There is a really interesting article posted on The Atlantic site today about the popularity of large dogs in China. As the author Damien Ma notes, “Most Americans will likely have a preconceived notion of the Chinese relationship with dogs. When a developing country can barely take care of all its own people, animal rights tend to sit very low on the totem pole. But the reality is much more complicated, especially with a burgeoning dog culture associated with the rise of young urban elites with disposable income. “
Ma then interviews an American filmmaker who is making a film Oversized Dogs: Chinese Dog Laws and the People Who Break Them. The director, who remains nameless for now, has been interviewing Chinese dog lovers who, similar to many dog lovers in other countries, find laws pertaining their pets onerous at worst, and turning many into scofflaws . But this isn’t a simple examination of a rising middle class pleasure in having dogs and their attachment to pets, it really does say more about how societal attitudes in China are evolving. As the director remarks: “From this, I realized that Chinese individuals casually break laws everyday, and this constitutes a very subtle and interesting side of dissent.” Read the whole interview and find out more about this Chinese “secret dog society” and what it might portend for the future of dogs in the world’s most populous country.
News: Guest Posts
Charming huckster or disturbing stereotype?
In an effort to sell a new line of products—the “Wild Collection”—Old Spice has created a character they’re calling Mr. Wolfdog.
Mr. Wolfdog, a wolf, is supposed to know a lot about the wild as well as marketing. He wears a clunky metal collar that translates his vocalizations into English. He sits at a desk, covered with Old Spice products and other decorations.
Mr. Wolfdog has the head of a real canine (hard to tell if it’s a dog, a wolf, or a hybrid) and a puppet body, so that he appears to be sitting at his desk, arms moving, like a human.
The style is cheesy, a riff on Mad Men’s bygone era of marketing that includes touches like a 10-key calculator and an ancient intercom system on the desk, as well as Mr. Wolfdog’s complete disdain for his assistants.
In fact, Mr. Wolfdog eats his assistants.
Yes, wolves are the epitome of wild. I get that. The target male audience for Old Spice products—the original cologne debuted in 1937—probably doesn’t include many wolf-huggers. But that doesn’t justify a high profile company that has hit some home runs with prior ad campaigns perpetuating a myth that contributed to the eradication of wolves across the West and continues to confound their successful reintroduction today.
Adding to my concern is another ad in the new campaign. It’s called “Irresistible.” An elegant man descends the stairs into an opulent party room with…a wolf growing out of each shoulder. I guess he’s a man-wolf hybrid. The man never speaks. The wolves, however, snarl and threaten a pretty woman who says she’s afraid, then intrigued, then drives off with the man and the wolves. “I never had a chance,” she says. I guess because they man-wolf smells so good, with his “wild” scent by Old Spice.
[“Irresistible” ad video on YouTube]
I asked some friends with dogs for their reaction to the Mr. Wolfdog ad.
From Tina: “Ooookay. Wow. At first I thought it was just really, really stupid. Then it got to the part where the wolf just can't resist the urge to eat his staff members. When so much has been done to get people to understand that wild animals (especially the highly feared ones like wolves, bears, sharks, snakes) are NOT living for the day that they can consume a human being, what Old Spice is doing is very wrong.”
From Shelle: “I thought it was stupid, revolting and couldn't figure out what the hell they are trying to say. I hated it. The poor dog looked hot and uncomfortable. The copy was nonsensical. Did I say I hated it? Where's the sexy black dude. Loved him.”
Shelle is referring, of course, to Isaiah Mustafa, who gained sudden fame in February 2010 as the bare-chested actor in the popular “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” advertising campaign for Old Spice. Women who buy Old Spice products for their men were the target audience, and the ads worked.
My informal poll shows males responding slightly more favorably to the Mr. Wolfdog ad than females, although none of them liked it.
What do you think? Love it or hate it?
News: Guest Posts
Overcoming fear, Learning to trust again
Many dogs, rescued from the trauma and abuse of puppy mills or hoarders, need lots of extra TLC before they're ready for their forever homes.
Lacking social skills, having lived with fear, pain, and hunger, some remain overwhelmingly fearful even after being removed from their deplorable conditions and given physical, medical and emotional support. Their psychic wounds can cause them to cower, retreat from a loving touch, pee submissively, even growl or bite to keep humans and other animals away.
Such behaviors, while understandable, make them a challenge for shelters already overwhelmed with dogs needing homes. Fearful dogs often become part of a revolving door problem, being returned to shelters by adopting families ill-equipped to deal with the behaviors. Or worse, they may be euthanized because they can't be placed.
ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) has created a flagship program that will attempt to fill the gap between rescue and placement for the most severely traumatized dogs, the fearful ones. The ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center at St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center in Madison, N.J. opens this week.
"For some animals, the reality is that after a lifetime of neglect and abuse, the rescue is just the beginning of their journey to recovery," said Dr. Pamela Reid, vice president of the ASPCA's Anti-Cruelty Behavior Team. "The ASPCA recognized the need for a rehabilitation center that will provide rescued dogs customized behavior treatment and more time to recover, increasing the likelihood that they will be adopted. We partnered with St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center and identified the unique opportunity to utilize their space and collaborate with their behavior and care experts for the rehabilitation of victims of cruelty and neglect."
To start, dogs rescued from animal cruelty investigations will be eligible. To help reduce these dogs' fears and anxieties, the rehabilitation team will gently introduce them to unfamiliar sounds, objects, living spaces and real-life situations that a normally socialized dog handles with aplomb, but can induce trauma and extreme stress in this special population of dogs.
The ASPCA has funded this project for two years. The work done at the Center will become part of a research project, studying and evaluating methods for rehabilitating undersocialized, fearful dogs. The findings will be shared with animal welfare organizations and other researchers nationwide with the goal of helping shelters and rescue organizations rehabilitate abused and fearful dogs coming into their own facilities.
News: Guest Posts
He didn't run like a puppy; he flopped like a seal. His back hunched when he moved as if he was stalking stray sheep. Lucas was born with his front legs curved inward, hobbling his every step. In February, he arrived at Glen Highland Farm's Sweet Border Collie Rescue in Morris, New York, run by Lillie Goodrich and John Andersen. His new caretakers were smitten with him. But what good was their 175 - acre wooded, stream-filled sanctuary to a badly handicapped pup?
Worse, Lucas didn't seem to know he had any limitations. He tried to run and play as hard as any three month old pup; even though all of the bones in his elbows were displaced and separated, leaving him with no range of motion. His rescuers struggled to find solutions when veterinarians offered little hope. A canine cart? The “wheelchair” option led them to consider euthanasia. With his energy and powerful herding drive, Lucas might as well be imprisoned.
The traditional way of reconstructing limbs is to cut bone and utilize biomechanical devices, such as pins and screws, to hold the bone in place as it heals. In Lucas's case, a traditional approach could help, Dr. Hayashi says, but his deformity was so severe that “there is no ideal treatment.”
The chosen procedure would focus on stretching and adjusting the position of the muscles in order to reposition the bones. The method, which is inspired by a few veterinarians, including one from Cornell, doesn't replace other techniques, Dr. Hayashi says. “It's not very different from any other surgical procedures in principle,” he says. “It is a modification” of existing techniques used in other types of deformity. “Each case is different. Each deformity is different.”
Lucas's defect is “very rare,” the surgeon says. While the cause is unknown, genetics probably play a role.
In early March, Lucas underwent the operation at Cornell, where he is now in the first phase of physical therapy. Everything went well, but it's still too soon to gauge its success. “Lucas is still recovering and is fighting this tough battle, and he will probably need to go through more procedures,” Dr. Hayashi says.
His rescuers anxiously monitor his progress. “The process will be a slow one since he has never stood upright on his front legs and has no muscle development” for such movement, Lillie Goodrich says. “His attitude is terrific and he is truly loved by all the team in the hospital. This first two weeks is a vulnerable time when the therapy is critical. Then he returns to the farm for continued therapy up until age one.” The costs are extreme and caretaking is only half the job. His rescuers must also raise the funds for his recovery.
However, the future is looking a lot brighter for the once-unlucky puppy, who still has plenty of time to grow into his limbs. “His prognosis for a normal joint is poor,” Dr. Hayashi says. “His prognosis for a happy life is good.”
News: Guest Posts
Should food that has been genetically modified be labeled?
Last November, California became the first state to put the issue on the ballot. Proposition 37, the “Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act,” called for such disclosure on the labels of some raw and processed foods sold in stores. It also prohibited them from being advertised as “natural.” And it didn’t give dog chow a free pass.
Although the measure targeted human consumers, the California Sherman Food, Drug and Cosmetic Law applies to both human and animal foods. So any pet food with a detectable level of genetically engineered content would also have to note on its label, “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering” or “May be Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering.”
That would mean a lot of new label text in the dog food aisle. Over 90 percent of the nation’s soybeans and 85 percent of its corn is genetically modified, according to 2010 data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These crops, modified to resist pests or withstand high doses of weed killer, are common in processed foods such as cereals and dog food.
But even with strong consumer support, the label law failed to pass. The organic industry and other advocates were outspent by biotech companies led by Monsanto—the world’s largest supplier of genetically modified seeds—and the food industry, including Big Dog Food. Nestle, owner of Purina PetCare Company and Mars, the maker of Nutro and Pedigree dog food, donated funds to help defeat it.
The Pet Food Institute and Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council argued that the label requirements would increase costs for farmers, manufacturers and consumers alike. Heated editorials appeared on Petfoodindustry.com.
“Putting scary sounding labels on pet food packaging will likely mislead consumers and impact their purchasing choices,” states a “No on 37” Campaign flyer.
In one ad by the campaign, a befuddled-looking man held up a slab of meat and a pet food canister. The line read, “So dog food would need a label but my steak wouldn’t?” The ad aimed at exemptions in the law that might confuse consumers; in this case, that processed beef dog food would be labeled but beef from animals fed genetically engineered crops wouldn’t.
Label supporters say that, given the prevalence of genetically modified ingredients and the scale of the industrial supply chain, a label that covers many of these foods is a good start (for example, dog food with beef which may contain bioengineered ingredients, such as vegetable oils).
Some dog owners already consider mainstream pet food, with its uniform nubs of dry kibble or wet mush, mere canine junk food; fast, convenient, and nutritionally questionable. But are those genetically modified morsels unhealthy in other ways?
The science is inconclusive. A genetically engineered food is a plant or meat product that has had its DNA altered by the insertion of genes from other plants, animals, viruses, or bacteria. The traditional means—plant breeding—allows desired traits to be cultivated, or unwanted effects to be eliminated, over time. Gene-splicing also shortcuts the long process of adaptation and evolution that occurs between food and consumers,
The FDA has ruled that these foods are “substantially equivalent to conventionally produced foods,” and does not safety test them. Unless they contain a known allergen, there is only a voluntary consultation process with developers, who conduct their own testing. But scientists say that the potential for creating new allergens and toxicants in bioengineered foods is there. At the same time, corporate patent rights over seeds limit independent researchers’ ability to study them.
California’s failed initiative calls labels “a critical method for tracking the potential health effects of eating genetically engineered foods.” Dog owners may agree. How would anyone know if genetically altered foods are triggering disease in dogs? Shouldn’t vets know what the pets they attend to are eating?
One thing is clear: it isn’t over. Several states are now working on proposals for their own label laws.
Editor's note: Starting in 2018 Whole Foods will be labeling GMO foods. And even Wal-Mart has been looking at labeling as well.
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