Are euthanised pets in pet food?

Yes, according to 2 sources. This article is about American pet food. I have read a couple of excellent sources on this topic which I am revisiting after about 10 years. 10 years ago, I said that rescue cats and dogs that were killed at shelters end up at rendering plants supplying pet food manufacturers. It makes commercial but not ethical sense. But this area of the pet market is clouded in a fog even to the experts, probably because the pet food manufacturers want to keep it quiet and away from public attention. That’s because as the relationship between companion animals and people develops and deepens and “pets” become family members, it becomes more and more objectionable to think about rescue animals ending up in pet food.

Cat food
Public domain picture: Marc Dalmulder creative commons 2.0
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Veterinarian’s viewpoint

Both my sources are dated 2010, so they are quite old but they are good. The first one comes from the PETMD website and is written by a veterinarian, Patty Khuly DVM. Her article is about barbiturates ending up in pet food because when you euthanise domestic animals you use barbiturates and these drugs can survive, it seems, the rendering process. Patty refers to a 2004 report to Congress on the rendering industry and quotes from that report.

It’s a long quote but I will reduce it thus:

“These plants (estimated by NRA at 165 in the United States and Canada) usually collect material from other sites using specially designed trucks. They pick up and process fat and bone trimmings, inedible meat scraps, blood, feathers, and dead animals from meat and poultry slaughterhouses and processors (usually smaller ones without their own rendering operations), farms, ranches, feedlots, animal shelters, restaurants, butchers, and markets.”

The rendered food is for non-human consumption. She also refers to an FDA (Food and Drug Administration) report on the amount of barbiturates in pet food and whether cat and dog carcasses make up a significant percentage of pet food.

The conclusion of that report, as I understand it, is that they found pentobarbital in some samples of pet food which on the face of it indicated that cat and dog carcasses were in that food because pentobarbital is used to euthanise dogs and cats at animal shelters. However, they also developed a test for cat and dog DNA and they found no cat or dog DNA in these pet foods. This mystified Patty because you don’t use pentobarbital to euthanise horses or cattle and therefore she hints that the only source of this pentobarbital could be cat and dog carcasses.

My conclusion from reading her article is that it looks pretty clear that cats and dogs are rendered down for pet food but it is not 100% clear.

Pet food labelling misleading re animal species
Screenshot of Google image search

Susan Thixton

The second source is from the Truth about Pet Food website of Susan Thixton. This is a highly reliable source from a true expert on pet food.

The headline to her article is: EPA document proves euthanise dogs and cats are rendered. The “EPA” is the United States Environmental Protection Agency. As is usual with these articles it is technical partly because of overlapping authorities.

But she says the truth is crystal clear in quoting the report. I will re-quote the important bit as follows:

Independent plants obtain animal by-product materials, including grease, blood, feathers, offal, and entire animal carcasses, from the following sources: butcher shops, supermarkets, restaurants, fast-food chains, poultry processors, slaughterhouses, farms, ranches, feedlots, and animal shelters.”

Thixton makes the important point that although the pet food industry claims that rendered cats and dogs are not used in their food, there is no evidence or regulation to support their claim. As I understand it, existing American pet food regulations do not insist that labelling states the source of the raw materials for their food. Regulations do not insist that the raw material for pet food should be of human consumption grade. And the AAFCO regulations ensure a lack of clarity as to the whether the ingredients are to human consumption standards.

However, Thixton says that if you want to make sure that the food you are buying does not contain rendered dogs and cats you should avoid foods containing these listed ingredients:

  • Animal Fat
  • By-Products (any variation)
  • Meat and Bone meal (not meat specific meal such as chicken meal, turkey meal, lamb meal)
  • Beef and Bone meal
  • Animal Digest

It is these ingredients which euphemistically refer to rendered cats and dogs.

My conclusion is that Susan Thixton has confirmed that euthanise cats and dogs from animal shelters in America are used as a raw material for pet food.

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