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Friday, March 03, 2006


This is scary! From CNN:

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (CNN) -- At least 13 dogs have died after being fed the top-selling pet treat in the country, owners and veterinarians have told CNN.

The problem comes because the treats, called Greenies, become lodged in a dog's esophagus or intestine and then some veterinarians say they don't break down.

"I know they are marketed in saying that they do digest. Certainly the ones that we've taken out, esophageal or intestinal, that have been in for days are still very hard," Brendan McKiernan, a board-certified veterinary internal medicine specialist from Denver, Colorado, told CNN.

Greenies recommends owners check that the treats are chewed and Joe Roetheli - who launched the brand as a treat that can freshen a dog's breath and clean its teeth - said it was important to pick the correct chew for a particular dog. There are 7 different sizes to choose from depending on the size of the dog.

But most of the dog owners CNN talked to say they did follow package instructions and they still had a problem.

Mike Eastwood and his wife, Jenny Reiff, recently filed a $5 million lawsuit in New York, blaming Greenies for the intestinal blockage that caused the death of their dog Burt.

"I'm mad that their packaging states that the product is 100 percent edible, highly digestible and veterinarian approved, yet our dog died of it," Eastwood told CNN.

S&M NuTec, which manufactures the toothbrush-shaped chew, won't comment on the case but in court papers denied the allegations.

Roetheli said the focus should be on the dental benefits and Greenies are saving dogs' lives by lowering the risk of periodontal disease.

He says feeding Greenies is far safer than putting a dog under anesthesia to clean teeth.

"Dogs really love the product!" he said. "They do a very effective job of cleaning teeth and freshening breath."

Any suggestion that Greenies are defective was rejected by Roetheli, who developed Greenies with his wife, Judy.

"Our product is safe. It is used every day by thousands of dogs, millions a week and it is basically a very safe product."

A CNN investigation uncovered 40 cases since 2003 where a veterinarian had to extract a Greenie from a dog after the treat became lodged either in the animal's esophagus or intestine. In 13 of those cases, the pet died.

One of those was Tyson, Josh Glass and Leah Falls' 8-month-old boxer, who was taken to Brent-Air Animal Hospital in Los Angeles, California, where vet Dr. Kevin Schlanger found the animal had a blocked intestine.

"It was very clear that it was something dense and firm that had caused the obstruction," Schlanger said. He removed a Greenie from the intestine.

McKiernan's says his Denver clinic has seen at least seven cases in the past five years, which he says is an unusually high number. That prompted him to start researching and writing a paper to warn other veterinarians of the problem.

He says his research, which he hopes to get published in a veterinary journal, shows compressed vegetable chew treats, of which Greenies is the most popular, are now the third biggest cause of esophageal obstruction in dogs behind bones and fish hooks.

The federal Food and Drug Administration says it's looking into eight consumer complaints about Greenies but has no formal investigation.

The issue has also been the topic of news reports across the country.

The chews are made of digestible products like wheat gluten and fiber, experts say, but the molding process makes the treat very firm and hard.

Roetheli, who runs S&M NuTec from Kansas City, Missouri, says Greenies do break down when properly chewed and swallowed by a dog.

He told CNN that any product has the potential to cause an obstruction in a dog and that Greenies packaging warns dog owners to monitor their dog to ensure the treat is adequately chewed. "Gulping any item can be harmful or even fatal to a dog," the package says.

The company's Web site addresses the issue in its FAQ section with the question "When giving an animal Greenies, does it affect their digestive system?" The answer "The only time dogs would be unable to digest anything would be if they didn't chew it up before they swallowed it. Canine and Feline Greenies are highly digestible when chewed."

The company says the number of complaints it has received is very low in relation to the vast numbers of treats sold, and CNN spoke with several vets who recommended Greenies.

Introduced in 1998, we found Greenies now selling for about $16 a pound. Last year, 325 million individual treats were sold around the world, nearly three times the sales of its nearest competitor Milk Bone, according to the marketing company Euromonitor International.

"At the end of the day ... literally millions of Greenies are enjoyed by dogs on a weekly basis with absolutely no incidents," company vet Brad Quest told CNN.


Crazy for Critters was on the road all week, in Tampa, and unable to update the blog, but we're back with this story, which ran Feb. 28 in the St. Petersburg Times:

Copyright Times Publishing Co. Feb 28, 2006

A knock on a stranger's door in a South Tampa neighborhood landed the father of a Hillsborough County commissioner in the hospital with multiple dog bites.

Now the owners say their dog, Buck, is getting a raw deal because he bit someone important: Ken Hagan Sr., the father of Ken Hagan, one of seven commissioners who ultimately oversee animal control.

Hillsborough County Animal Services has deemed Buck, which it describes as part pit bullterrier, a threat and ordered him put to death.

Animal Services supervisors say that every aspect of the case has been handled "by the book" and that the death sentence for Buck has nothing to do with who the dog bit.

Both department director Bill Armstrong and the supervisor of the department's field workers say they haven't heard from Hagan, the commissioner, about the incident.

"If my dad got chewed up like that . . . I can assure you I would have been calling everybody," said Dennis McCullough, interim field manager for Animal Services.

The dog's owners are appealing the order but fear Buck will not be able to get a fair shake because the hearing officer who will consider the matter is appointed by Hillsborough commissioners. A date for the appeal has not been set.

"I can't prove it," said Mary Anne Young, Buck's owner. "But to me it's just so obvious that this is a conflict of interest. The paper given to us has the commissioner's name on it."

The attack occurred Feb. 11 on Azeele Street about a block from the former Malio's Steak House. Hagan was in the neighborhood campaigning for his son, according to an initial report by an animal control officer.

It's not clear what Hagan was doing in South Tampa campaigning. His son represents northern Tampa and is not up for election this year. Neither Hagan returned phone calls Monday.

Around 10 a.m., Young, a tax and license supervisor for the Hillsborough County Tax Collector's Office, said she heard a knock on the door. The timing was unfortunate. Young said she was readying Buck for a bath. "Normally he would have his collar on," she said.

Young, 54, said Hagan Sr. stuck out his hand as she opened the door as though to introduce himself. Buck sprang, biting Hagan, as Young recalls, on the wrist and ankle. The wrist was bleeding, but, because Hagan was wearing pants, she said she could not see how bad the bite was.

Young said she apologized and offered to take Hagan to a clinic, but he refused, saying he would be in touch and drove off.

Animal Services reports paint a more fearsome picture. In them, Hagan Sr., 62, and neighbors who heard screaming describe Buck driving him into the front yard and onto the ground, biting him multiple times. It took Young and her boyfriend to pull the dog off.

Photos taken by Hagan family members at University Community Hospital, where he stayed overnight, and later at his home show an open wound on his right ankle, and bite marks on his left hand, left forearm, left calf and chin. He got 15 stitches.

There are so many teeth marks that McCullough said he can't say for certain how many times Hagan was bitten.

"Could you imagine if this were a Girl Scout, and she was offering cookies?" he said.

Young said her concerns about unequal treatment were spawned after an animal control worker and three Tampa police officers showed up three days later, Valentine's Day evening, to confiscate Buck. Neither Young nor her boyfriend was home.

Neighbors said they were surprised by the show of force. They said the animal control worker banged several times on windows with a stick used to control dogs, leaving cracks.

Neighbor Don Hamm asked what was the commotion. "They told us that the dog had bitten a commissioner's father," Hamm said.

The officers hung around for more than two hours for Young to return and took the dog.

McCullough said it's not uncommon for animal control workers to request police officers to join them, particularly when confiscating a dog at night. It's a potentially emotional event.

The animal control worker is out of the office this week, so McCullough said he could not speak about the cracked windows or the reference to Hagan's commission connection.

Buck is now held in a cage at the county's Animal Services Center on Falkenburg Road. Stocky, at nearly 80 pounds, he looks a little like a Labrador and barks repeatedly as two visitors approach.

McCullough extends his hand toward the cage, passively, with the backside toward the snout, the way children are taught. Buck bares his fangs, snarls, then snaps at the hand.

A reporter lowers his face toward the cage. Same result. The entire time, Buck's tale is wagging.

Neighbors reported no prior problems with Buck, who has not bitten anyone before. However, Tampa Electric Co. recently posted a "bad dog" alert on the home, warning meter readers not to enter the yard.

Under Florida law, a dog may be labeled dangerous and ordered euthanized after a vicious attack. That can include attacks that involve multiple bites and lacerations, such as occurred in this case.

Local laws also enable the county to declare a dog dangerous, impose fines on its owners and require them to take a dog-care course, erect fences and take other safety precautions. Young thinks that should happen in this case.

Young adopted Buck three years ago as a stray when he turned up malnourished on property that her family owns in Pasco County. She said the dog is regularly around her 12-year-old granddaughter and 6- year-old grandson, as well as a cat and another dog, and everyone gets along fine.

"He was protecting me," Young said. "It's really my fault for opening the darn door.

"I just hate to see him give up his life for a mistake that I made in judgment."

Monday, February 27, 2006

Weary Whippet Owners' Update

From the American Whippet Club's site, as of Saturday night, Feb. 25:

"Vivi has still not been found as of Saturday evening, in spite of some media reports to the contrary...Here are some other updates:

"First, it turns out that a limousine driver sighted what must have been Vivi at the airport in the evening the day she was lost, ten days ago This means that we can be almost sure that she did not drown in the marsh, which has been our worst fear. Second, a Delta spokesman has assured me that contrary to what has previously been reported, Delta has conducted several thorough searches of the areas of the airport they have access to, and will continue to do so on a regular basis. (Why neither Jil nor anyone else in our search party was informed of this is not clear.) Although these searches were unsuccessful they at least show concern.

"Outside the airport, a second group of volunteers, organized by Bonnie Folz, has been searching the JFK neighborhood all day, from dawn till evening. Many of them drove long distances to offer their help. We are overwhelmed by their support and extremely grateful to all those who turned up in the freezing cold to help. Posters have been put up in store windows all along Rockaway Blvd. Most of the store owners and many customers we talked to were already familiar with Vivi and have been on the lookout. So far there has been no reported leads.

"The best chance is that Vivi is still inside the airport. Paul and I were again allowed to search the restricted areas of JFK for several hours, accompanied by a Port Authority official. The good news is that there are heated cargo buildings where Vivi could hide out and make a home for herself for as long as she likes. She is a good hunter and has caught and eaten wild game (rabbits, squirrels)in the past. There are also dumpsters which allow easy access to employees’ lunch leftovers.

"The bad news is Vivi does not respond to calls from the people she knows. Nor has she been caught in any of the traps. (One of them contained a feral cat.) The problem which makes further searches futile, however, is the size of the airport and of the cargo buildings. Unless you have been inside JFK you cannot imagine the enormity of the area across which Vivi is obviously roaming. Each hangar is as large as an average shopping center. Many are abandoned and dark. All are heated. And, each has hundreds, if not thousands, of hiding places for a dog. It is frankly overwhelming (and not surprising that apparently in the past at least one dog was lost at JFK for a whole year without being found.)

"We are faced with the following scenarios:

"If Vivi is still at the airport she is most likely hiding out in any of the cargo buildings, in which case she will have to make herself known before she can be found.

"If Vivi got out of the airport she could have been killed by a car; she could have been picked up by someone who is unaware of who she is; and although it’s unlikely she could be hiding without having been seen.

"Although we will no longer be able to participate in the search, both the Port Authority and Delta Airlines will continue their searches, and the traps will be kept out, loaded and checked frequently for at least several more weeks. Their searches are not completely altruistic, since a loose dog at the airport constitutes a safety risk, but it also guarantees that the searches will continue to be taken seriously.

"Paul and I will make another tour of the most likely areas tomorrow and check the traps, before returning to work in California and keep hoping for a miracle.

"We hope for further assistance from Delta. Jil’s Delta connection has been helpful and assures us that the airline will continue to do what’s necessary. The costs involved have been fairly heavy and we also want to be able to thank those who so generously have donated their time and their help. It is our hope that Delta will agree to take responsibility for these costs.

"We continue to get offers of help from a large number of psychics. Most agree that Vivi is safe at the airport. Others differ widely--from a suggestion that she is now in France to other much more negative reports.

"I want to add a few important notes: We’ve heard from some people in the street that $5000 is not enough reward "because the dog is worth over $100,000." That is of course not true: Vivi is priceless to Jil and to all those who love her. But, if a price can be put on a whippet of her age, sex and breeding potential it would be more like $20,000. The unrealistically high figure was mentioned by Jil in the first moment of panic in an attempt to get helicopters in the air to search (which succeeded), more like "She’s worth anything to me, however much money you can think of, even $100,000"...

"Jil suggested that instead of offering to contribute to the reward for finding Vivi those who wish to donate money should do so to Bonnie Folz and rescue efforts. I’ll be happy to forward information as required.

"I was told that today was the last organized Vivi search...However, I understand that many concerned individuals will continue to look for Vivi on their own, even though we are now almost sure that she is somewhere within the restricted JFK area. We appreciate all the help and good wishes tremendously!

"We just got back from a last late-night run, had to check against all odds whether Vivi had been seen again. It didn’t make much sense since that last viewing was ten days ago but we just had to look anyway. I sure hope she’s OK somewhere in there.
Very late, very tired...Bo.''