It was supposed to be a Christmas treat for their a pint-sized pooch, but a Saugerties couple, Steve Smith and Debi Arthur, believe that the chicken jerky treats, purchased from a local supermarket, became a death sentence for their beloved Chihuahua, Lacy. What they found out later — the treats were suspected in the illness or death of hundreds of dogs as far back as 2007 — left them stunned, angry and looking for answers.
“I was just shocked, knocked back by the laid-back attitude some of these people have,” said Smith. “These are people’s pets and they’re dying.”
The story begins back in Nov. 2011 when Arthur, 57, bought a package of Milo’s Kitchen chicken jerky treats at ShopRite in the Town of Ulster. The treats were a Christmas gift for Lacey and the couple’s other dog. Smith he gave Lacey, a 10-year-old long-haired Chihuahua, the treat while he watched a football playoff game on Sunday, Jan. 15. Later that evening, Smith said, he found the dog lethargic, unable to stand up and refusing food but with an unquenchable thirst for water. The couple planned to take the stricken animal to the vet first thing in the morning, but by 2 a.m. Lacy was dead. At first, Smith said, he did not connect Lacy’s sudden death to the treat; the unsuspecting couple traveled to Long Island to bury Lacy at the family’s traditional final resting place for pets, their former home on Long Island. While they were there, they gave the remaining treats to Debi’s daughter who fed them to her Lab-mix. Within hours, Smith said, the larger dog also became violently ill.
“We never suspected the treat, until the other dog got so sick,” said Smith. “Then we went online and started looking into it.”
What they found, and the Saugerties Times confirmed, is that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued three advisories about potentially contaminated chicken jerky treats since September 2007. But, despite extensive testing at laboratories working with the FDA’s Veterinary Laboratory Response Network, scientists still don’t know what causes the illness or even if the treats are responsible. Smith said that when he called the FDA to report Lacy’s death on a consumer complaint line, the response was nonchalant.
“They said they kind of suspected (that the treats could cause illness),” Smith recalled. “But until they know definitively, they can’t do more than they already have, which is just about nothing.”