Updated: 5:35 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013 | Posted: 4:58 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013

Target 11 investigates claims that Beneful is killing dogs

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Target 11 investigates claims that Beneful is killing dogs photo
Target 11 investigates claims that Beneful is killing dogs

PITTSBURGH —

An Ohio woman contacted Target 11 after her dog died. She thinks something was wrong with her dog's food, and she's not the only one. Consumer Investigator Robin Taylor discovered hundreds of dog owners have filed complaints about Purina Beneful.

"We waited for the test results and stayed with Mazey the whole time, and when they came back it was just not good news," said Carissa Dority, of Cortland, Ohio.

Dority is from one of two families that have contacted me after their dogs died. They believe Beneful had something to do with their dogs' deaths.

I talked to the Food and Drug Administration about this. The FDA is aware of the complaints, but hasn't found a contaminant, so the dog food remains on the shelf.

Carissa and Scott Dority shared their story with me. They have loving memories of their 2 1/2 year old English Mastiff, named Mazey.

"I've never had a dog that would just come and bury her head in your lap because she loved you so much," said Carissa.

In January, Scott picked up a big bag of Purina Beneful. A week later, Mazey started acting a little off. The following week she began throwing up.

"It seemed like there was really something wrong and I was really getting worried," said Carissa.

At the vet, Mazey's condition continued to deteriorate.

"They said that it was poison. It looked like she had drank antifreeze," said Scott.

But the Doritys say the only thing that had changed was Mazey's food. Their vet suspected aflatoxins that can come from moldy grains, including corn. Two days later, there was nothing more the vet could do.

"Her kidneys and liver were shutting down and there was no coming home for her," said Carissa, fighting back tears.

That evening, they filed complaints with the Department of Consumer Affairs, the FDA and Purina. After reviewing the vet's findings, the FDA began looking into Mazey's death.

Scott took Mazey's body to the Ohio Department of Agriculture's Center for Animal Diseases in Columbus for a necropsy, and sent samples of Beneful to the FDA.

"We assumed that you could go to the store and you could purchase any bag of dog food and your pet would be okay," said Carissa.

On the Consumer Affairs website, I found more than 400 complaints of dogs getting sick or dying after eating Beneful. Most of the complaints have been filed in the past three months.

Purina calls the allegations "misleading" and says there's "no scientific evidence" to support them.

"We are confident there is not a quality or safety issue with our products," said Bill Salzman, a spokesman for Nestle Purina PetCare. He added, "There are no product recalls of Beneful, and in fact, Beneful has never had a product recall."

"You don't know whether the Beneful killed Mazey?" I asked the Doritys. "No. We do not," said Carissa.

"In my heart I know it did. There's nothing that could have done this. The only thing that answers the question is the dog food," said Scott.

The FDA is awaiting a toxicology report. Those test results could take several weeks. It is also testing samples of the food and says if there is a safety concern, the agency will alert the public.

In the meantime, Purina stands by the safety of its food, issuing the following statement:

"We encourage any consumer with a question or comment about one of our products to call and speak with us directly at the toll-free number on every package. Any time a consumer believes their pet may be ill, they should contact their veterinarian, who is in the best position to assess their pet's health and the various potential causes for an illness."

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