Killing Me Softly: The Truth Behind Pet Treat Labels

In 2010, author and natural pet food entrepreneur Amy Renz was one of many pet parents who wondered what the truth was behind pet treat labels. Many do not realize that behind the colorful packaging and clever slogans of pet treats, there are dangerous, carcinogenic substances, masked by vague wording like “natural flavors” and “meat.” So what’s the truth behind a pet treat label? In 2010, Renz investigated, finding astonishing and disturbing results.

According to Renz, pet treat labels often include BHA, BHT, Ethoxyquin, Sodium Metabisulfite, and TBHQ among the ingredients. Renz notes that Del Monte and Purina routinely use these chemical ingredients, which are known to be carcinogenic and can also cause liver and kidney problems, loss of consciousness, brain damage, and life-threatening asthma. In addition to being in the top-selling dog treats, these chemicals are also used to manufacture rubber and petroleum products, including embalming fluid.

Many pet treats, such as Purina Moist ‘n Meaty, list Ethoxyquin on their label. Ethoxyquin is so toxic that the FDA prohibited it from human consumption except for minute quantities in certain spices. Despite the behest of veterinarians, the FDA has done nothing but suggest to pet product manufacturers that they reduce its usage.

Sodium Metabisulfite (the preservative in Milk-Bones) is harmful if ingested or inhaled. It reacts with water and acids (like those in your dog’s stomach) to release toxic sulfur dioxide gas. It can cause life-threatening asthmatic reactions after ingestion as well as gastrointestinal, circulatory, and central nervous system problems.

BHA and BHT are banned in England, Japan, and numerous European countries. BHA is thought by the National Institutes of Health to cause stomach cancer. BHA and TBHQ are classified as nongenotoxic (not directly affecting DNA) carcinogens (Kroes and Wester, 1986). A Consumer’s Guide to Food Additives (Winters, 1999) stated that TBHQ can cause death from ingestion of as little as 5 grams. Ingestion of one gram causes nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, delirium, a sense of suffocation, and collapse. The FDA puts strict requirements on all of these toxic chemical preservatives in human food, but pet foods have few if any requirements and often contain much more. Why are companies allowed to place these dangerous substances in our pets’ food?

There are natural solutions for preserving food, such as dehydration. Taking the moisture out of a food ensures that bacteria cannot grow. Vitamin E and Vitamin C also make effective natural solutions. But dehydration is more expensive than using sodium metabisulfite, BHA, BHT, TBHQ or ethoxyquin.

Many pet food labels vaguely list “meat” as an ingredient…but what does this really mean? The FDA states that “meat” for animal feed comes from “independent [rendering] plants that obtain animal by-product materials, including grease, blood, feathers, offal and entire animal carcasses from the following sources:  butcher shops, supermarkets, restaurants, fast-food chains, poultry processors, slaughterhouses, farms, ranches, feedlots, and animal shelters.”

AAFCO, the organization that works with the FDA to standardize definitions of ingredients and other things for the pet food industry, broadly defines “byproducts.” Poultry byproducts, for instance, can include:  “the carcass of slaughtered poultry such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines exclusive of feathers except… as might occur unavoidably…” The FDA also allows 4D animals, including roadkill, dying or diseased animals, disabled, and spoiled or contaminated meat to be used in pet food. “Meat” and “by-products” are found in Milk-Bones (Del Monte), Pup-Peroni (Del Monte), Busy Bones (Purina), Moist n Meaty (Purina), T-Bonz (Purina), and Beneful Snackin’ Slices (Purina).

The effect of ingesting these toxic substances is drastic. Many young and middle-aged dogs are developing myriad medical issues, including skin irritation and gastrointestinal issues. The reason behind their symptoms is that dogs cannot digest what they are eating. Many dogs cannot digest components like wheat, corn, and soy. Some dogs are allergic to these ingredients, but they are included in dog food because they are economical for the large companies that produce dog food and dog treats.

MSG, an addictive substance, is included in pet food but not listed on the label. When a protein is listed as “hydrolyzed,” it likely contains MSG. MSG is likely a causal factor in pet obesity because it can more than triple insulin levels. More than 50% of dogs and cats in the U.S. are reportedly obese.

Refined sugars are added to pet food because dogs can taste sweetness. Sugar can cause obesity, dental problems, and diabetes. The FDA still allows cancer-causing saccharine to be sold to humans and genetically modified ingredients to be undisclosed on labels. Glycerin is a sugar substitute and filler and hydrogenated starch hydrolysate is an artificial sweetener with a similar chemical compound to Xylitol, which is a known pet toxin.

Wheat, which can be difficult for dogs to digest, is frequently identified as an allergen. Wheat is in countless dog treats, including Milk-Bones (Del Monte), Pup-Peroni (Del Monte), Beggin Strips (Purina), Waggin Train Jerky Tenders (ADI in China),  Busy Bones (Purina),  Moist n Meaty (Purina), T-Bonz (Purina), Beneful Snackin’ Slices (Purina), and The Goodlife Recipe (Mars, Inc.).

Titanium dioxide, copper sulfate, calcium proprionate, sodium bisulfite, propylene glycol, and zinc sulfate are toxic, commonly used food additives. Food colorings Yellow #6, Blue #1 and #2, Red #3 and Green #3 are linked with cancer in animal testing. These are in Milk-Bones, Beggin Strips, Beneful Snackin Slices, and T-Bonz.

Titanium dioxide is a widely used white food coloring that is suspected of causing genetic disorders and lung tumors and has caused emphysema-like lung injuries in mice. Sulfate is an herbicide, fungicide and pesticide that’s also a known toxin. Calcium proprionate is a mold inhibitor. Sodium nitrite is linked with cancer and can be found in Beggin Strips and Pup-Peroni. Sodium nitrate is easily converted into carcinogenic compounds (called NOCs). Both sodium nitrite and nitrate have been linked with gastric cancer, esophageal cancer, and colorectal cancer.

Propylene glycol, which is lethal for pets, is found in antifreeze as well as the following pet treats: Milk-Bones (Del Monte),  Beggin Strips (Purina),  Pup-Peroni (Del Monte), T-Bonz (Purina),  Beneful Snackin’ Slices (Purina),  Moist n’ Meaty (Purina), and Busy Bone (Purina).

Wolves in captivity live for 20 years or longer, but dogs frequently die at far earlier ages. Cancer is the #1 killer of our dogs; 25-50% of them die from it by some estimates. The toxins in their food are arguably a significant contributing factor.

Our pets cannot tell us that they feel ill – experiencing headaches, itchy skin, gastrointestinal upset, dizziness, and weakness – after ingesting the treats that are intended to act as a reward. Disturbingly, in the three years since this article’s publication, few, if any, changes have been made to diminish the danger to pets who consume store-bought treats and foods.

“In the last couple years, I haven’t noticed the big guys make any improvements in their products,” Renz stated. “The market for healthier pet food and treats is growing rapidly. But instead of making a better product, companies like Del Monte (the maker of Milk Bones) makes a better gimmick. They invent Milo’s Kitchen, for example. Del Monte markets Milo’s Kitchen as a ‘home-style’ treat, but there are dozens of ingredients in them that you would never find in your home kitchen, and the chicken treats are produced in China.”

Renz recommends using alternatives to the larger companies. “What I have noticed are healthier choices coming from new companies,” she stated. “These are products that contain what the industry strangely doesn’t like us to call ‘human-grade’ ingredients. They’re products from companies like my company, Goodness Gracious, or The Honest Kitchen, or Primal Pet Foods. The ingredients we use are fresh, wholesome, USDA certified, and nutritious for dogs and cats. They are the same ingredients you’d buy in a grocery store and feed all members of your family.”

“Consumer awareness has grown over the last couple years and that is encouraging,” Renz stated. “People are reading labels, asking educated questions, and finding a lot of good information on-line. Just like they do with their children, parents need to take an active role in guiding their pet’s nutrition. A trip to McDonald’s will always be cheaper than a trip down the produce aisle of the grocery store.  But there’s a reason the parent does the latter.  The same rule applies to our pets.  I’m often asked to recommend a healthy, cheap treat.  They don’t exist. Quality ingredients and careful preparation costs money. The better choices are more expensive. So don’t sweat it. Just give your pet one healthy piece of jerky over five or ten junk-food biscuits. Your dog will make up the difference by living longer.”

While our pets cannot tell us that our kindness is killing them softly, educating yourself by taking the time to read a label can help your pet live many years longer. To learn more about Renz’s company, visit their website.

Thanks to the support of readers like you, Pasado’s Safe Haven can investigate issues pertaining to animal welfare, health, and safety. Please consider making a donation today: With just one click of the mouse, you can help us continue to make a difference in the local community and beyond.

Thank you – from all of the animals at Pasado’s Safe Haven.

February 4, 2012 15

Cassie – ADOPTED!

Cassie is very shy and finds comfort and security with other animals.

Cassie is a one-year-old female cat who was rescued by a Good Samaritan with her momma Aurora and her brother Nutmeg.  Cassie is a beautiful, petite, diluted calico with  gorgeous creamy fur that fades almost to peach in some places.  Because Cassie was semi-feral when we rescued her, she will need just the right person to love her.  She is shy and timid, but with time and love, we believe that she will continue to grow more social and loving. Cassie’s brother and mother have been adopted.

Cassie often hides, but she is slowly getting braver and ventures out longer and longer to play with Pasado’s office dogs. Cassie is one of our “special office friends,” so she does get daily socializing, but it is generally always with the same people.  She would need patience in a new home. Cassie needs someone special and preferably familiar with socializing shy kittens to understand her special needs. Cassie will do best in a home with a laid back dog.  She is fine around most cats also.

February 3, 2012 1

Humane Lobby Day: Championing Landmark Legislation

Little Pasado, which Pasado's Safe Haven was named for, with his mother

Pasado’s Safe Haven works diligently to create greater legal protection for the animals and to increase the penalty for those who abuse and neglect them. The Humane Society of the United States Humane Lobby Day, which will be held on February 21 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., looks to the future for supporting and passing further protection for the animals.

Humane Lobby Day is an event that is sponsored by The Humane Society of the United States where citizen animal advocates can gather to learn and practice lobbying for animal protection laws at the state level. This is a full-day event that includes a lobbying workshop and an overview of relevant bills in your state legislature. Appointments are made for you with your state legislators so that you can meet with them (or their staff) face-to-face and ask for animal-friendly votes. You can click on your state to RSVP.

The HSUS recently released its 2011 “Humane State Ranking,” a comprehensive report rating all 50 states and Washington, DC on a wide range of animal protection laws on issues ranging from animal fighting to farm animals to wildlife to companion animals. Washington State has a score of 38/66 and is tied with four other states for sixth-place ranking nationwide. This rank and score is a decrease from 2010, but with events like the HSUS Lobby Day, we hope to make 2012 a banner year for the animals.

During the HSUS Lobby Day, every attempt will be made to schedule a meeting with the legislators that represent you at the state capitol. In the event that your legislator cannot meet with you personally, you will get a chance to talk with one of his or her key staffers. Your meeting will generally only last a few minutes and you’ll be given specific talking points and training on what to cover during the meeting.

Many animal bills are filed each year during the legislative session. The HSUS chooses priority bills for Humane Lobby Day based upon several factors, including their impact and chance of passage. Focusing on the bills that the HSUS has chosen will make the most impact during your visit to the Capitol.

Please continue to speak up with Pasado's Safe Haven for stronger laws for the animals.

Working on landmark legislation is one of the cornerstones of Pasado’s Safe Haven’s foundation. Pasado’s has played an integral role in getting numerous bills passed. In 1994, Pasado’s helped pass “The Pasado Law.” This was the first law which we took a major part in getting written, heard, and passed. The Pasado Law was first presented in 1992 and didn’t pass, but we persevered and it finally passed in 1994. This law made Animal Cruelty in the First Degree a FELONY in Washington State.

In 2004, Pasado’s helped pass the Non-Ambulatory Livestock Law, which made it illegal to drag or lift by tractor any animal too sick or weak to walk. In 2006, we helped pass the Bestiality Law, which made bestiality a ranked Class C Felony in Washington State under Anti Cruelty statues.

The ranking of a felony is important.

1) Only “ranked” felonies are subject to the sentencing guidelines.

2) While all First Degree animal cruelty offenses are felonies, only bestiality is “ranked” because it is considered to be a sex crime and is subject to the same sentencing guidelines as other sex crimes.

3) According to the sentencing guidelines, the penalty for a ranked First Degree animal cruelty offense is up to 5 years prison and a maximum $10,000 fine. If you are a first-time offender, however, you could receive as little as a few months in jail.

4) All other “unranked” felonies have a “blanket” penalty of up to 1 year of jail time and a maximum of $5,000, including First Degree Animal Cruelty 1 and 2. Although not technically subject to the sentencing guidelines, most judges will use these guidelines.

In 2007, Pasado’s helped increase the penalty for animal abandonment to Second Degree Animal Cruelty. In 2011, this bill expanded upon the definition of “similar” animals to the Genus level and changed Animal Cruelty in the Second Degree from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor.

Please join Pasado’s Safe Haven on February 21 for Humane Lobby Day. Together, we can be a voice for the animals, working to provide greater legal protection and stronger penalties for those who abuse animals.

Thank you – from all of the animals at Pasado’s sanctuary and from those who are still waiting to find their safe haven.

February 3, 2012 Comments Off

Update: Dean Solomon Sentence

Dean Solomon at her probation violation hearing on Feb. 2, 2012. The hearing has been rescheduled for Feb. 16. Photo courtesy of


Dean Solomon Probation Violation Hearing (was rescheduled from 2/2/12)

We will gather in front of the court at 1:30pm for a peaceful vigil.

King County Superior Court, 516 Third Avenue, Seattle, WA

The hearing is at 2:30pm in room #341

Dean Solomon is a repeat animal abuser and it is very important that we are there to be a voice for the animals.

On Thursday, February 2, a hearing was held in a King County courtroom to determine whether Dean Solomon’s suspended sentence would be revoked or if she would be sent to jail. Solomon arrived at court without representation and Judge Mark Chow assigned an attorney to her case. The attorney claimed that Solomon was not properly informed about the hearing from the State. The State and Judge agreed. Judge Chow expressed concerns, however, that Solomon may harm more animals in the two weeks that she has to prepare for the hearing, which was rescheduled for February 16. Judge Chow wanted to ensure that no more animals had to suffer and allowed the witness who had traveled from Covington, WA, to testify.

The witness, Randy Pinney, had been hired to be Solomon’s caregiver. Pinney’s duties had not included animal care and Pinney and her partner left Solomon’s home because they “did not want to be around a dishonest person…who would treat animals this way.” Pinney showed photos and gave testimony that Solomon allegedly illegally had five additional pit bulls in 2011. She said that the dogs were forced to live in their own feces and urine. She had photos of two of the dogs in an outdoor kennel standing in a week’s worth of their own feces.

A KIRO report outlined Pinney’s testimony. “Even just standing by the door you could smell urine [and] feces,” stated Pinney. “When you opened the door to the bedroom he was in, you basically couldn’t breathe.”

The Judge agreed to ban Solomon from her residence until the hearing on the 16th. Solomon said that she would be staying with a friend who owns a dog and the Judge agreed to this. Judge Chow ordered Solomon to report the names of two individual who are currently living at her residence to care for her animals to the court by February 3rd. Pasado’s was very pleased when Judge Chow recognized that “animal violence is violence!” and that this case has to be taken seriously.

Pasado’s wonders: If these people who will care for the dogs currently live in the home, are they not aware of the neglect that has gone on with these animals? If they have witnessed the neglect, are they complicit with it? How can they be trusted to fully care for the animals? And will these individuals be checked for any prior animal cruelty charges?

An Animal Control Officer was amongst those in attendance in the court. One condition of Solomon’s continuance was that she allow law enforcement and animal control full access to her property to check and monitor the animals.

In 2008, Solomon was charged with four counts of Animal Cruelty in the 2nd degree. Each charge could have a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. If proven that Solomon violated her probation, she could be facing up to four years in jail and a $20,000 fine. Pasado’s will ask that she receive the maximum sentence and that she is never able to own animals again. She is a repeat offender and this abuse cannot continue.

Join Pasado’s Safe Haven as we take a stand for the animals on Feb 16th. While Solomon’s victims cannot speak for themselves, your attendance truly will make a difference.  Please stay tuned for the time and court room number.

February 3, 2012 3

Upholding Solomon’s Sentence: Be a Voice for Victims

Feb, 1, 2012-

Dean Solomon pleads not guilty to horse abuse in 2008. Photo courtesy of KOMOnews

Dean Solomon is no stranger to animal abuse: She was convicted of Animal Cruelty in 2008 and ordered to not obtain any additional animals.

See the KOMOnews Story

Animal Control was called to Solomon’s property, Pacific Equestrian Center, in Kent, WA in February of 2008. A veterinarian had found six horses who were extremely thin and had lice, court papers said. One horse was already deceased and two additional horses were so ill that they had to be euthanized. Animal control officials said that they received several complaints about mistreatment, the condition of the property, and other problems pertaining to the care and treatment of Solomon’s animals.

Some of Solomon’s horses in their living conditions in 2007

The three dead horses were removed from Solomon’s Kent, WA property in February of 2008. Animal Cruelty charges were filed in April of 2008 in King County Superior Court. Solomon was charged with four counts of animal cruelty after King County Animal Control Officers verified that more than half a dozen of her horses had been starving and suffering from severe lice infestations. Court documents allege that Solomon failed to provide her horses with food, water, shelter, sanitation, and medical attention. Solomon’s horses were forced to live in filthy conditions, with many of them standing in mud that completely covered their hooves. While these conditions were horrific, many of Solomon’s horses faced an even worse fate: They repeatedly showed up at feedlots, where an unknown number of them tragically lost their lives in slaughterhouses.

Charging papers only sited Solomon for neglecting eight horses, but there were actually as many as 80 horses crowded on Pacific Equestrian Center’s grounds. In November of 2008, Solomon pleaded guilty to Second Degree Animal Cruelty, a misdemeanor.  2nd degree Animal Cruelty  was only a misdemeanor in 2008, but as of April 2010 with Pasado’s Safe Haven’s help, it is now a Gross Misdemeanor.  Solomon, then 49, faced a suspended sentence in exchange for community service. The terms of the plea agreement stated that Solomon was allowed to keep four horses, but that she must let King County Animal Control see the animals.

Solomon recently disregarded the court’s ruling, working her way in to a rescue in California, where she ended up fostering several rescued dogs. Fortunately, Solomon’s probation violation was discovered and all of the fostered dogs were removed or returned to the rescue organization. King County Animal Control sent the case to the prosecutor for probation violation and court review.

Solomon’s case was set for February 2nd at 1:30 with Judge Mark Chow at King County Superior Court, 516 Third Avenue, Seattle, WA.

Please read the update here.

When prior animal abusers re-offend, it is vitally important to show law enforcement and the legal system that this behavior is simply unacceptable. These victims cannot speak for themselves, but together, we can be a voice and a force for the animals.

Pasado’s Safe Haven would like the court to ban Solomon from owning any animals. There are excessive statistics that say that people are proven to re-offend.   Banning her from owning any animals would save the county money and potentially make them more money.  Checking back on this offender multiple times, to assure that animals that she is allowed to have are in satisfactory health, would be a drain on the county and their limited staff and resources.

Thank you – from all of the animals at Pasado’s sanctuary and from those who are still searching for their safe haven.

January 28, 2012 5

Do you have an animal emergency?

If you have an animal emergency please contact your local law enforcement office and report your concerns immediately.

Due to poor weather conditions, ALL of Pasado’s Safe Haven is experiencing prolonged power outages which has resulted in loss of phone service, as well as access to email and notifications.  If you have been trying to reach us, we extend our sincere apologies, and ask that you bear with us while western Washington State navigates through some of the worst snow it has seen in many years.  The power companies are working overtime to get everyone’s power fixed, but with thousands out of power,  there is no estimated repair date.

Please understand that any voice messages or emails you may have sent to us are not getting through, but as soon as our power is restored we will start trying to catch up on those inquires that made it through.

Be safe, drive cautiously, and stay warm.  For information about keeping your companion animals safe and warm during this weather, please read some important tips for when the mercury dips, here.

January 20, 2012 Comments Off

Wally the Horse

Wally is a real character and deserves a loving home with a special person

Wally is a 23-year-old Thoroughbred /  Quarter Horse mix who has a wonderful, loving personality! He stands about 16 hands high and is a dark bay with the most expressive eyes we have ever seen.

Wally is a sweet soul looking for a family who will love him

We have nicknamed him “Wally Nickers” because he nickers when it is dinner time. He is a trustworthy, mellow fellow who has the very special job of helping calm our new, nervous rescued horses.

Wally is a gentle soul with the perfect temperament to ride along in the trailer with a new frightened horse. He will also just hang out with them in the pasture to help put them at ease at the sanctuary.

Wally needs to be a companion horse only due to his arthritic conditions, but he would make an excellent pasture companion! While Wally does need to go to a home with at least one other suitable horse companion, he is confident enough that if his friend leaves for a lesson or a trail ride without him, he would not be upset.

This sweet horse is not finished with life; he truly deserves a forever home with someone who will play with him and provide him with love and attention. Wally trailers, ties, clips and bathes easily. He actually adores being sprayed with fly spray, and will almost help you put his fly mask on! Wally is one in a million – will you be his forever owner?

If Wally sounds like the horse for you, please contact us at

January 18, 2012 Comments Off

Belle the Goat – Adopted!

Beautiful Belle

Belle came to us from the Kent Humane Society with her friends Hara and Scarlette. Although Scarlette seems to have found some new friends, Belle and Hara always stick together. These two girls are a bit on the shy side but don’t mind coming up for grain or produce treats.

These girls would like to be adopted out together to the right family.  They are companion animals only.

January 18, 2012 Comments Off

Hara the Goat – Adopted!

Hara is would love a forever home to share with her friend Belle.

Hara and her friend Belle came to us from the Kent Humane Society. They still remain close together and are looking for a wonderful home to be adopted out to together.  Hara is a companion animal only.

January 18, 2012 Comments Off

Tony the llama – ADOPTED!

Tony is Mr. Personality and makes friends with everyone!

Update 6/5/12 – Tony has been adopted!

Tony is one of the most personable llamas you will ever meet! He will come right up to you and say hello and insist that you pet him. Like a typical llama however, he is VERY stubborn.  He, and he alone, decides when he will or won’t do what you want him to do.  But as llama whisperers, we know the secret to Tony’s acquiescence.  He can be bribed with treats!

Tony is very good around other animals and is very protective over his herd. He would love to find a home where he is the only llama protecting a herd of sheep and goats.  Llamas make wonderful protectors for the smaller ruminants like sheep and goats.  They are tall with very long necks, and can see predators long before the other herd animals and send up a warning.  They are very vigilant about watching their fields.  Llamas like Tony are also quite brave and will protect their herd from danger whenever possible.

January 18, 2012 Comments Off