Pet tales: Reports of the slaughter of dogs and cats in U.S. for food lack credibility




Nearly 200,000 people want federal officials to pass laws that would make it illegal to raise dogs and cats to be slaughtered in the United States and sold as meat for human consumption.   

Perhaps you have seen this petition shared on social media. The petition author is “Sue Lee” on the Care2 Petitions website (www.thepetitionsite.com). The petition makes an unsubstantiated claim that “dogs and cats are often bred right here in the United States for the purpose of human consumption.” It also claims that 44 states allow the slaughter of dogs for food, attributing that information to “the Humane Society.”

I couldn’t find any credible source reporting that information. The people at Care2 petitions cited privacy issues and declined to put me in touch with petition author Sue Lee. They gave the author my contact information, but she never called or emailed. Nonetheless, the petition raises the possibility that dogs and cats could be slaughtered for food because most states don’t specifically prohibit it.

So I looked for answers from two of the biggest and best-funded national animal organizations in this country — Humane Society of the United States (www.humanesociety.org) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (www.peta.org). 

HSUS  and PETA don’t know of any dog and cat slaughterhouses in this country, but of course both are opposed to killing cats and dogs for meat. Both groups monitor and campaign against this in other countries, including Korea and China, which has made headlines in recent months because of the thoroughly repulsive dog meat “festival” in Yulin. 

Spokesmen for HSUS and PETA told me that last year a bill was introduced in the Pennsylvania House that would have outlawed cat and dog slaughter for food.

“The bill failed, I think, because it’s not really a problem in Pennsylvania” or anywhere in the U.S., said Stephanie Twining in media relations at HSUS.

“It’s not something we have found in the U.S.,” agreed Ashley Byrne, campaigns specialist for PETA. But the group would like to see such legislation anyway.

“We would encourage people who are concerned about dog and cat meat to consider that cows and pigs are just as intelligent and they feel fear and pain” and should not be slaughtered or eaten, Ms. Byrne said.

State Rep. John A. Maher, R-Upper St. Clair, is the legislator who introduced House Bill 1750 banning the processing or sale of dog and cat meat. He said he was moved to act by “very sporadic reports from different parts of the state about back-alley butcher shops,” where the bodies of dogs and cats are hung from hooks.

“There are never any photos, but even if there were, you could not call police because it’s not illegal,” said Mr. Maher,

He said the House passed the bill by a unanimous vote, but when it got to the Senate, someone tacked on an amendment that would have outlawed pigeon shoots and the bill died. Animal rights and welfare groups have been trying for more than a decade to ban pigeon shoots in Pennsylvania.

“I will reintroduce the dog and cat bill in the near future,” Mr. Maher said.

In Ohio, meanwhile, companion animal protections for dogs and cats prohibit “needlessly killing” them. The sale of dog and cat meat is effectively prohibited because the meat would not come from a state-approved or inspected source.

I asked the Allegheny County Health Department if any of us could unknowingly be eating dog or cat meat at local restaurants.

“Allegations of facilities serving cat or dog meat have been made throughout my career with no foundation,” said Donna L. Scharding, manager of the food safety program. 

“Inspectors routinely evaluate the source for all foods,” Ms. Scharding said. “Foods are required to come from regulated and permitted food processing facilities.”

So what happens to petitions on the Care2 site? The Care2 people didn’t answer when I asked them by email. The petition says its “target” is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Secretary Margaret A. Hamburg. Dr. Hamburg was actually the commissioner of the FDA until she stepped down in March.

If you want to get involved in this or any animal issue, I suggest contacting your local legislator or the websites of your favorite animal rights and animal welfare organizations for correct information.

Animals on stage

A 4-year-old Maltese dog and a little lamb are cast members of the Pittsburgh CLO production of “Gypsy” on July 10-19 at the Benedum. 

Enzo was “discovered” by a CLO staffer when owner Elena Nola was walking him Downtown on her way to work at the Leech Tishman Fuscaldo & Lampl law firm. Enzo plays “Chowsie,” and throughout the first act he is carried around in the arms of Mama Rose, his stage mistress.

The lamb is in one or two scenes as the pet of the character Louise, who sings the song “Little Lamb.” The lamb is coming from Barnyard Petting Zoo and Pony Rides in Eighty Four, Washington County. Barnyard owner Jan Marchezak said her top candidates are a 1-week-old lamb that weighs 3½ pounds and  a 2-week-old lamb that weighs 15 pounds. Are lambs smart enough to train? 

“When you’re that cute, you don’t have to be smart,” Ms. Marchezak quipped.

Beerfest for Dogs

For the Biggies Bullies rescue, Pittsburgh Summer Beerfest is the biggest fundraiser of the year. It’s next Friday and Saturday  at Stage AE on the North Side, 6:30-11 p.m.

This event sold out last year, so organizers advise going to www.beerfesttickets.com in advance. More than 250 craft beers will be featured along with food trucks and live entertainment.

Admission is $40 for 7:30 p.m. entry or $50 for 6:30 p.m. early admission. A Designated Drivers ticket is $20 for bottled water, soft drinks and a $5 food coupon. 

No umbrellas, pets or small children are permitted. 

Biggies Bullies rehabilitates and finds homes for pit bulls and other bully breeds and mixes. Since 2011 it has placed about 50 dogs, which were fostered in the homes of volunteers.

Go to www.biggiesbullies.com or Facebook for information.

Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Magazine section. Contact Linda Wilson on her Facebook page, lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3064. 





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