News Charity Bans Volunteer Dogs Fed Raw Meat Diet

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Charity bans volunteer dogs fed raw meat diet
27th July 2017

By Sandra Pearce

A charitable scheme that sends dogs into schools to help children to read has banned the use of dogs fed a raw meat-based diet amid concerns that the pets may carry what it claims are ‘dangerous bacteria’.

The organisers of Burns by Your Side have said they must put ‘the safety and health of the children first’ and on that basis, dogs fed a raw meat-based diet will no longer be allowed to participate in the scheme.

Burns by Your Side uses trained volunteers and their dogs to help children improve their reading skills and communicate more confidently. Endorsed by The Kennel Club’s Bark and Read Foundation, it is managed by the Burns Pet Nutrition Foundation, the charitable arm of Burns Pet Nutrition.

John Burns, managing director of Burns Pet Nutrition and a vet for almost 40 years, said he is ‘concerned about the health risks’ of a raw meat-based diet. He said: “When I first worked as a vet in general practice almost 40 years ago, when pets had a health problem (dogs primarily but also cats), I often recommended a diet of home-cooked brown rice, vegetables and meat as a method of managing those health problems.
 
“This gave wonderful results in dealing with persistent illnesses especially skin disease, digestive upset and many other health issues.
 
“A diet of raw meat is a very new method of feeding which inevitably means a diet high in fat and protein. In my opinion, this is not appropriate to the lifestyle of a domestic pet and is also potentially hazardous. The danger is not limited to the pet consuming raw food – family members are also put at risk from spread of pathogens from the raw food.
 
“Human health professionals continually remind consumers to cook food properly and even to exercise great care when handling raw meat products.”
 
Burns by Your Side organisers said many bodies around the world have taken a similar position. The US-based Delta Society Pet Partners programme, which trains and supplies therapy dogs, has not used pets fed on raw meat-based diet since 2010.

Organisers listed the World Small Animal Veterinary Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, American Animal Hospital Association and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as having ‘issued policy statements advising against the feeding of raw meat-based diets’.
 
Carol Lincoln, manager of the Burns by Your Side scheme, said: “There is now a substantial body of evidence that raw feeding meat and other raw animal products poses health risks, not just to the pet itself but to humans who come into contact with the pet. Raw meat, whether intended for consumption by humans or pets, is frequently contaminated by micro-organisms including e. coli and salmonella.

“Trials have shown that dogs which eat raw animal products, even if they do not show signs of disease, can become carriers and shed these bacteria into the environment. This poses a risk to the health of susceptible humans, particularly young people, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

“The fact is we have a responsibility to ensure the dogs we are sending into work with children are healthy and safe. On that basis, we have taken the decision to not allow dogs on a raw meat-based diet to participate.”

NOT A NEW TREND

Michael Bellingham, chief executive of the Pet Food Manufacturers Association, said: “There has been a spotlight on raw feeding in recent months with mentions in two prime-time TV programmes. The PFMA ‘Responsibly Raw’ Factsheet is the most downloaded at pfma.org.uk.

“This isn’t a new trend; commercial raw pet foods have been around for many years and PFMA has represented commercial raw producers for at least 40 years. Commercially prepared raw pet food from a PFMA member comes with the reassurance that the manufacturer has adhered to strict legislation and regular testing to minimise any risk of food-borne contamination.”

‘A REAL SHAME’

Craig Taylor, managing director of Natures Menu, Europe and the UK’s number one for raw pet food, said: “The recent decision by Burns by Your Side is a real shame as we know there are many healthy therapy dogs fed on a raw diet that would play a valuable role in the scheme. Dogs in general are exposed naturally to a vast amount of good and bad bacteria in their day to day lives and we know that dogs live successfully alongside those that need assistance, whatever diet they have eaten.
 
“Natures Menu provides microbiologically tested raw foods which are completely safe to feed and we must highlight that in our 35 years of business, there is no evidence available from the British Veterinary Association or our own scientific studies to support that dogs fed on a frozen raw diet are more likely to spread bacteria to humans. Raw feeding responsibly is completely safe and dogs love and thrive on a natural diet of quality ingredients, with countless customers and vets reporting significant health benefits.”

‘UN-PEER-REVIEWED STUDY’

Suzanne Brock, owner of Nutriment, said the decision by Burns is based on an ‘un-supported, unpublished and un-peer-reviewed study from Liverpool University’.
 
She said: “I hate to be cynical.  But.  The meteoric rise of raw in the last few years has clearly put some noses out of joint.  Whilst I could use this time to advise readers of the stringent testing – by law – of all quality commercial raw foods, I think that any intelligent person is capable of doing their own research and being enormously comforted by their findings.
 
“Likewise, I could also discuss the actual salmonella recalls on kibble food and treats, the effect of Salmonella on the gut of the dog and the occurrence of dangerous bacteria in everything from muddy puddles, to kitchen floors.  
 
“I would, however, like to point out this:  Raw food companies are still individually very small in comparison to the mainstream food providers.  They do not have huge marketing budgets, or often even a voice amongst everyday pet owners.   So why have they become so successful in the last 8 years?
 
“The truth is simple.  If you feed your dog on a quality complete raw diet for one week, you will notice the difference.  You will tell others.  And repeat.  The rise of this form of natural feeding is based solely on the results.  It is not a “fad”.  It is not a fashion. We love our dogs too much to feed them something that does not get results. If anything, it is a rebellion against the shockingly poor ingredients in many commercial kibbles.
 
“Regrettably, Burns Original continues to use rice (69%), chicken meal (20%), oats, peas and chicken oil for their Chicken recipe.  It cannot bear comparison to a food made up of actual meat, actual vegetables and real offal.

“So,sadly it would seem that this has been a rather cynical response to a fall from favour by foods such as Burns.
 
“As a footnote, today one of my dogs rolled in fox poo. The other ate a worm.  One licks the bum of the other.  Both ate Nutriment Duck, and both have kissed me and at least one stranger today.  I will let you know, John, how my health continues to fare after this daily assault.”