By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views
I was originally going to call this post, “The Positive Side of Animal Testing.” However, I thought that many of you would think that I had lost my mind if I put the words “positive” and “animal testing” in the same sentence.
I don’t buy cosmetics or products that are tested on animals. However, when it comes to food testing–that’s food for our cats and dogs–ALL pet food companies test their food on dogs and cats.
In the U.S. all pet food is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) establishes standards on which states base their feed laws and regulations; it has no regulatory authority. Confusing? A bit!
My Visit to Hill’s
I was invited to a behind the scenes tour of Hill’s, makers of Science Diet, at their Topeka, KS, facility. The day was packed with information. The nutrition sessions even covered such details as taste, aroma, and mouth feel of the Science Diet brand.
Hill’s product line includes more than 80 Prescription Diet brand pet foods and more than 90 Science Diet brand pet foods. The folks at Hill’s were excited to introduce their newest product: y/d Feline Thyroid Health. It’s for cats with hyperthyroid disease. Earl Gray, my cat, is taking medication to treat his hyperthyroidism. However, I just put him on the new diet. So, check back because I will be reporting on his progress.
Hill’s Prescription Diet is sold at veterinarian’s offices throughout the country. Science Diet is sold at pet food stores and chains. And what’s nice about Hill’s is their personal service. Customers can call Hill’s Consumer Affairs department at 1-800-445-5777 with pet-nutrition related questions about Hill’s products. The department is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST.
From early a.m. to mid day, representatives from Hill’s covered just about everything on the science of nutrition. The highlight was the tour. At the plant are 480 dogs–mostly beagles, and 456 cats of all shapes and sizes.
What struck me first was the large number of tails that were wagging and the upright curled cat tails. All of the cats and dogs I saw looked healthy and happy. The people who monitored–or should I say played with–the cats and dogs knew just about every minute detail about them. My tour mates kept on asking “how do you get any work done?” because we spotted a lot of people playing, exercising, and petting the furry residents.
Prior to my visit, a few veterinarians told me that I was going to enjoy visiting the plant. One told me that he loved the cattery so much that if there was extra space he would move in.
Each cattery houses 12 cats, and there are places to climb, hide, jump on, sun in, and rest. The dogs had large outdoor runs with doggy doors that led to indoor spaces with beds and toys.
All of the crew–from management to caretakers–seemed to truly care about the cats and dogs. When the cats and dogs reach a certain age, they are often adopted out to a Hill’s employee.
That caring attitude is carried over to their shelter program. One recipient is the Kansas Humane Society, a shelter that receives food from Hill’s on a regular basis. Hill’s shelter program feeds homeless pets in more than 1,000 animal shelters nationwide. “We have a strong commitment to nutrition and that is extended to shelter pets too,” says Neil Thompson, CEO of Hill’s.
So my fears of touring a facility where testing of animals takes place were unfounded. The people who work at this 500,000 square-foot multi-million dollar state-of-the-art facility really care about the Hill’s cats and dogs.
Animal testing can be done cruelty-free, as evidenced here.