As premium dog food brands which claim to use higher quality and more appealing ingredients grow in market share, some traditional market leaders are pushing back in court. Hill’s Pet Nutrition, which produces Science Diet brand pet foods, has been aggressively pursuing manufacturers which it feels have used deceptive advertising for their products. Blue Buffalo is their most recent target; Hills objected to their use of the phrase “Contains no by-products” when promoting Blue Buffalo products which contain fish meal, lamb meal, and liver. Hills claims that guidelines for the meal ingredients do allow parts of the fish and sheep in the meal that most consumers would consider by-products; they also consider liver a by-product. Based on the NAD’s ruling Blue Buffalo altered its advertising and web site (note carefully worded promises in sidebar) to conform to Hill’s demands, but has not altered its packaging, claiming the agency to which Hills complained, the National Advertising Division (NAD) did not have jurisdiction over packaging claims. Blue Buffalo has said it intends to appeal this decision which was announced in May, 2009.
Pet food nutrition standards and labeling requirements were developed well before the current surge in interest in “human grade”, “organic”, and “natural” foods. As a matter of fact, none of these terms has a regulated meaning for pet foods so manufacturers can use them at will, with consumers having to decide for themselves whether the description is accurate.
Pet Product News reports in its November print edition on the recently launched consumer campaign by the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, a non-profit devoted to the pet industry. PIJAC is reaching out to pet owners to help their efforts to combat legislation that attempts to restrict pet ownership. Individuals can join the Don’t Mess With My Pet campaign for $25 a year; their membership benefits include a logo tee shirt.
The Truth About Pet Food reported on a pet food class action lawsuit that was thrown out in Nevada. Owners who purchased WalMart’s house brand Ol’ Roy canned food felt deceived by the product’s “Made in USA” language on the label. This product was one of those that included Chinese ingredients tainted with melamine. The judge’s ruling in the case said it could only go forward if each and every consumer had purchased the product based solely on the “Made in USA’ claim and apparently the judge felt they had not. With my marketing hat on, I can see his point, the price, distribution and flavor of the dog food probably were greater influences on the initial purchase. By the time the Chinese ingredients were implicated I suspect affected product was off the shelves – and that’s when the USA claim would have had more appeal. I also suspect, to use an automotive analogy that the product was “assembled” in the USA. I understand from what I’ve read in the Whole Dog Journal and Pet Food Politics, very few people in the pet food manufacturing process know exactly where ingredients come from; and fewer are willing to share the information. From a pet owner standpoint, this is a disappointing decision in that it shows how difficult it is to get accurate information about commercial pet foods.
Just started following Guy Kawasaki (me and 48K+ others) on Twitter; he seems to have more interest in pet issues than I expected, alerting the Twitterverse to an article on Truemors regarding the RSPCA’s intent to prosecute owners who are found “overdressing” their dogs. This Daily Mail article gives more details on the situation. I do admit to competing in both dog shows (no dog clothes allowed) and the occasional costume class, but I don’t particularly like the idea of dog as fashion accessory. That said, I think this is well within an owner’s right to enjoy their pet as they see fit and a long way from meeting any reasonable standard of animal cruelty. Animal rights extremists . . .
The New York Times is collecting comments regarding the city’s poop scoop law for Michael Brandow, who recently published a book titled “New York’s Poop Scoop Law: Dogs, Dirt and Due Process,” Mr Brandow will answer the questions in Wednesday’s (Jan 7) edition of the paper. Sounds like a in interesting book regarding the presence of dogs in our biggest city. Reminds me of a comment dog trainer/author Job Michael Evans made regarding living in NYC with a dog. “People ask me how could I live with a dog in the city, I ask them how they can live in the city without a dog.” I’ll look for an opportunity to review and comment on the book.
The Detroit Free Press published an article about upscale pet retailers today which finds that sector is performing well despite the economic woes of the Detroit meto area. The store profiled for most of the article, Teacups and Toys, sells both upscale merchandise and dogs to wear it. I’m not a fan of the sales of dogs in retail outlets, but the story makes it sound like the store’s staff provides a lot more after-sale support for their puppies than the “Michigan breeders” that supply the store’s live merchandise. Other Detroit area pet retailers featured (who don’t sell dogs) are Shaggy Chic Boutique and Pet Supplies Plus and a representative of non-profit industry networking group, Pet Industry Retailers, is interviewed as well.
This morning NPR aired a story about a humane society auction of toy breed puppies seized at the LA airport. The puppies, imported from South Korea, were accompanied by forged documents stating the five week old puppies were 5 months old and had had the required innoculations for importation. Of the 30 dogs in the shipment all were in poor condition and only 10 survived. These puppies were turned over to LA Animal services which nursed them to health and kept them for 5 months. When deemed ready for placement, there was so much interest in the pups the shelter was required to hold an auction. Small dogs, especially purebreds, and puppies are rarely available in shelters, so this amount of interest in these animals that have all three characteristics is not surprising. The story quotes the shelter manager starting the auction by warning that the pups were likely from substandard breeding stock and had obviously had a traumatic start in life, so “Buyer Beware.” A representative from the American Kennel Club is quoted as saying when they stepped up their enforcement of substandard kennels that they also saw an increase in imported puppies bound for pet stores. The story makes it clear that importation rules are not being strictly enforced; that documents are readily forged, apparently inspectors are not trained to spot puppies so obviously underage for the required rabies innoculations as the ones in this story.
It’s about time I did some posting. Amazing how being employed and pursuing multiple awards and titles on three dogs simultaneously can interfere with my attention to this blog, which has lately been limited to attending to an amazing number of spam comments.
I can’t quite remember how I stumbled into this, I’m pretty sure I first found either an automotive or web analytics collection of blogs on Alltop. They do a great job of aggregating the top blogs in a given subject area, not just based on volume but also with an intent of finding less visited gems. I haven’t visited EVERYTHING in this collection yet but they include blogs from people who cook for pets, pet owner advocates, veterinarians and animal rightists. A very interesting cross section of the world of people who care about pets and issues affecting pets.