Pentobarbital in food kills tiger
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2002:
WELLINGTON, New Zealand; CHARLESTON, S.C.–The New Zealand
Ministry of Agriculture in mid-May 2002 made permanent the December
2001 suspension of the Dog’s Delight Ltd. operating permit, for
allowing pentabarbitone from the carcasses of dogs and cats killed by
lethal injection to contaminate food that the company donated to the
In October 2002 the tainted food killed a 13-year-old tiger
named Jambi. It was the first case of which ANIMAL PEOPLE has record
of an animal who was verifiably killed by barbituate residues in a
commercial pet food.
Slightly more common are cases in which birds of prey die
from ingesting the carcasses of pets who were not rendered. In late
April 2000, for example, South Carolina Center for Birds of Prey
director Jim Elliot told Associated Press writer Bruce Smith that the
center had treated 10 bald eagles in three years who ingested
pentobarbital after eating improperly buried dog and cat remains at a
nearby landfill. Six other eagles may have been affected, Elliot
said. Five of the 16 eagles died, nine were treated successfully,
and two are still at the center.
Similar cases were confirmed in April and May 2000,
involving one bald eagle found dead in Wisconsin and three who were
treated by the Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka.
The Dog’s Delight closure coincided with a KING-TV/Seattle
expose of the inclusion of rendered remains of dogs and cats in the
“tankage,” the boiled-down bulk protein used to make some pet foods.
ANIMAL PEOPLE has on file copies of many similar exposes
published and broadcast during the past 24 years.
Since at least 1978, animal advocates have sporadically
objected to the use of rendering to dispose of dog and cat carcasses
from shelters and veterinary clinics. Shelter directors and
veterinarians have responded by pointing out the rising cost of
otherwise disposing of carcasses killed by lethal injection. High
temperature incineration and burial in a lined landfill are the other
methods allowed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
If the remains of animals killed with barbituates are not
cooked at a high enough temperature to break down the barbituate
compounds, the remains are considered hazardous waste.
Opponents of rendering and critics of commercial pet foods
have often argued that tankage including the rendered remains of dogs
and cats could harm pets. Renderers have responded by stopping
carcass pickups at animal shelters: Ralston-Purina in the mid-1980s,
Wayne By-Products in 1988, Valley Proteins in 2000, and Millstandt
Rendering in 2001.
Even if all 4.6 million dogs and cats killed in U.S. animal
shelters last year were killed by lethal injection and were rendered
into pet food, dog and cat content would make up less than .001% of
tankage volume, and the pentaphenobarbital content would be less
than a thousandth of that.
Also rendered into tankage last year were the remains of as
many as 10 billion chickens, geese, ducks, and turkeys, 40
million cattle, 113 million pigs, and four million sheep.