Dog-eat-dog report puts US pet-food industry in a spin

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The Independent US

The trouble began with Blacky and Scoop. The report on the television news in St Louis, Missouri, showed the two lovable dogs in the city's animal shelter that were due to be put to death within hours.

The trouble began with Blacky and Scoop. The report on the television news in St Louis, Missouri, showed the two lovable dogs in the city's animal shelter that were due to be put to death within hours.

"No one wants them," said the doom-laden voice-over. "Alive, that is." The camera cut to a rendering plant in St Louis that boils pets with carcasses from farms to make fertiliser, cosmetics and, the report claimed, pet food. The report's final picture was of a lorry – emblazoned with the words "Serving the pet food industry" – leaving the plant.

The report caused chaos. Scores of people rang the city council demanding an end to the practice of feeding dead pets to live ones.

The Millstadt rendering plant – a small family-run business that for 30 years has disposed of dead pets free of charge – was forced to stop.

Officials in St Louis and the surrounding area now have a considerable problem. Because they are unable to dispose of the dead pets from the city's animal homes, the bodies are building up. The freezers are full and there is talk of digging new landfill sites.

No one dreamt the news report would have such an effect. Millstadt Rendering says it sells its boiled product to brokers. Exactly where it ends up, it does not know.

In America, rendering has long been considered one of the more environmentally friendly ways of disposing of animal carcasses. It recycles usable fat and protein and dispenses with the need for landfill sites.

Most rendered material comes from slaughterhouses, but sometimes factories will include animals killed on roads, leftovers from supermarkets and pets that have been put down at animal homes. The greater Los Angeles area sends 120,000 cats and dogs to be rendered every year.

The Pet Food Institute, whose members make 95 per cent of pet food in America, says ground-up cats and dogs are not used. The practice is not illegal, however, and there is some evidence that rendered pets are used.

The Food and Drug Administration has found "very, very low" levels of sodium pentobarbitone – the chemical used to kill pets – in some brands of dog food and is investigating.

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