McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

March 21, 2007

Woman thinks bad food killed her dog

By Susan Brittingham

A beloved Golden Retriever named Timber has died. Her owner and best friend is convinced that it was because she ate some of the pet food that has since been recalled.

“I can’t believe I didn’t know about the recall ahead of time so I could stop feeding her this,” said Gloria Hackbart, who lives in Pittsburg County. “I was force feeding her because she wouldn’t eat, and the whole time she was nibbling on poison.”

Timber ate canned Ol’ Roy chunks and gravy dog food, which is one of the nearly 100 brands of pet food recalled over the weekend after reports of 10 deaths from kidney failure in animals who ate the food.

So far only the cans and pouches of the dog and cat foods are affected. Dry food has not been implicated. The food, according to producer Menu Foods, was manufactured between Dec. 3 and March 6.

A complete list of the recalled food can be found at www.menufoods/recall.

The Web site offers detailed information on the brands, dates manufactured, product descriptions, sizes and UPC codes.

And while there are two hotline numbers set up for concerned pet owners, consumers generally get a busy signal. In fact, several days of repeated calling by the McAlester News-Capital produced only busy signals.

McAlester resident Liz Shaw found a way to bypass that and still get the information she needed. “I looked on the back of the food and got the brand maker’s phone number and called that,” she said. “I got to talk to someone right away and they were very helpful.”

Meanwhile, Hackbart wants everyone to know that she believes the suspect pet food is right here in McAlester. “I bought Timber’s food at Wal-Mart in McAlester,” she said. “And yes, my dog did die.”

Menu Foods has yet to say what it is going to do for people who lost their pets. “I don’t even have the empty cans to prove that I fed Timber that kind of food,” Hackbart said. “Nobody said ‘Save them in case your dog dies.’ I don’t have anything, not even my dog.”

And just over the border in Texas, another woman is convinced she killed her beloved pet Ollie, just because she fed him some special cat food as a treat.

“I have come to the horrible realization that I killed my cat Ollie a few weeks ago with this food,” said Susan McMahill.

“Ollie hadn’t been eating well and I thought it might have been problems with his teeth, so I bought him a variety of small cans of Iams cat food,” she said, adding that Ollie really enjoyed the turkey cuts in gravy. Unfortunately, cuts in gravy appears to be the very kind of pet food that is making animals sick — and in some cases killing them.

Ollie scarfed down the turkey cuts in gravy because it was so much easier on his bad teeth than the dry variety.

After an initial burst of a good appetite, Ollie stopped eating again and started showing signs of being sick. “Ollie’s symptoms were exactly what I have read that other cats have gone through after eating this recalled food: loss of appetite, lethargy and vomiting,” McMahill said. “I am sure that Ollie’s already weakened state (from not eating much) made him more susceptible to the kidney failure that this food caused, but I am sick that I gave him the food that killed him, after he was showing every sign of improvement.

“Please make sure that you don’t have any of this food in your pantry and if your pet shows any of these symptoms, get them to a vet quickly. Please, for the sake of your furry friends, check your pantry.”

Losing Ollie, after being the person who gave him the suspect food, may haunt McMahill for the rest of her life. “I’ve had lots of cats in my 52 years, but this is the first time that I’d had one die not of old age or injury,” she said.

“I certainly never thought that feeding my cat one of the best cat foods available would kill him.”

She feels that 10 is a small number of animal deaths, considering how many brands of pet food have been recalled. She wants to know “How many more are out there?”