Petco became the first national pet retail chain to remove all China-made dog and cat treats today when it announced that it would stop selling the products in its more than 1,300 locations by the end of the year.
The move by one of the nation's top two pet retailers comes just days after the FDA announced that jerky treats, mostly imported from China, have now been linked with more than 1,000 dog deaths and nearly 5,000 illnesses in dogs, cats and, for the first time, even people.
"We know some pet parents are wary of dog and cat treats made in China, especially Chicken Jerky products, and we've heard their concerns," said Petco CEO Jim Myers in a statement. "As a leader in the industry and the trusted partner for our pet parents, we're eager to make this transition and to expand our assortment of safe and healthy treats, the majority of which are made right here in the U.S. Very simply, we feel this decision is in the best interest of the pets we all love and, ultimately, for our business."
For seven years, the FDA has been investigating possible links between Chinese jerky pet treats and maladies in dogs that include gastrointestinal illness, kidney failure and a disease called Fanconi syndrome. It has warned consumers about a possible risk associated with the products, but has never pinpointed a specific ingredient in the treats that would cause illnesses, or released a recall of the products.
Petco said today that it doesn't want its customers to take any chances. "We know the FDA hasn't yet identified a direct cause for the reported illnesses, but we decided the uncertainty of the situation outweighs the lack of actual proof," said Myers. "It has taken some time and careful thought to get to this point, but we're proud to make the change and we believe our customers will be pleased with it as well."
Petco will also stop carrying the treats in its Petco stores, its Unleashed by Petco locations, and online at Petco.com. The retailer will replace them with treats made in the U.S., New Zealand, Australia and South America.
Brands like Milo's Kitchen, owned by Big Heart Pet Brands, have already stopped production of their treats in China and now proudly boast a "Made in the USA" label on their pet food and website.