Animal Law Review

First Page



More than 37 billion dollars of pet food was sold in 2019, a sum that increased to approximately 42 billion dollars in 2020. In fact, forty-two of the fifty states have pet food facilities producing more than 3 million tons of animal-based pet food ingredients. Yet, in the last decade, multiple pet food brands have been found to contain trace amounts of euthanasia ‘death drugs’ and are made from 3D or 4D animals — those that are dead, dying, diseased, or disabled. While this can often cause sickness or death in companion animals, an equally urgent issue is the welfare of the animals being slaughtered to produce these poorly regulated and often dangerous pet food products.

Despite the slaughtering of farmed animals occurring at these facilities, oversight is limited to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), rather than the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). In fact, animals slaughtered for human consumption receive far more protection under the USDA’s authority than animals slaughtered for nonhuman consumption under the authority of the FDA. This means that a multibillion-dollar pet food industry is slaughtering animals in the United States, yet it is exempt from most animal welfare regulations.

The pet food industry exemplifies the ironic reality that the animals humans purport to love most, our dogs and cats, are likely fed at the expense of some of the worst animal cruelty. Advocates and consumers concerned about animal welfare should not be satisfied with the mere food safety standards of the FDA; rather, the statutes enforced by the USDA for the humane treatment and welfare of animals slaughtered for food should be applicable regardless of whether the animals are slaughtered for human or nonhuman consumption. This Article argues the USDA should expand their oversight to include facilities slaughtering animals for nonhuman consumption, and that future legislation should serve to protect animals intended for both human and nonhuman consumption. Part II of this Article reviews the regulatory and legislative background of the pet food industry in the United States. Part III analyzes the animal welfare issues within the current landscape. Finally, Part IV offers specific solutions and opportunities for future research and improvements in the pet food industry.

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