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Premium pet food sickened or killed ‘thousands’ of dogs in U.S., Kansas lawsuit says

A lawsuit filed in federal court in Kansas alleges that Hill’s Pet Nutrition sold dog food containing high levels of Vitamin D that sickened or killed thousands of dogs around the country.
A lawsuit filed in federal court in Kansas alleges that Hill’s Pet Nutrition sold dog food containing high levels of Vitamin D that sickened or killed thousands of dogs around the country. Hill’s Pet Nutrition

Kansas-based Hill’s Pet Nutrition is being sued over allegations that some of its products sickened or killed “thousands” of dogs around the country.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., on behalf of two residents of Mississippi and New York, seeks class action status for other potential litigants.

It was filed in Kansas because the company is headquartered in Topeka. In a separate lawsuit filed earlier this month, an Olathe woman accused the company of overcharging for prescription dog food that she claimed contained no drug or ingredient that requires FDA approval.

The new lawsuit concerns numerous varieties of dog food that were the subject of a voluntary recall in January because they may have contained excessive levels of Vitamin D.

There are many numbers and dates on the foods, drugs, cosmetics, and other products we use every day. When unsafe products must be removed from the market, these numbers and dates can help identify them quickly.

The suit alleges that the company charged premium prices for the products that were marketed for their purported health benefits for pets, and accuses Hill’s of “misrepresentations, deceptive conduct and unfair practices.”

Instead of receiving the advertised health benefits, the lawsuit says, “consumers paid a premium for a product that sickened or killed thousands of dogs.”

“Instead of receiving positive health benefits, these consumers were subject to expensive veterinary bills and related costs as they tried to address the illnesses caused by the excessive Vitamin D levels in the Hill’s products,” the lawsuit says.

In its recall announcement, Hill’s had said that after it received a complaint it conducted laboratory testing that confirmed elevated levels of Vitamin D in some of its canned dog food.

No dry food, cat food or pet treats were involved, it reported.

The company attributed the issue to “supplier error.”

“Hill’s has identified and isolated the error and, to prevent this from happening again, we have required our supplier to implement additional quality testing prior to their release of ingredients,” the company said. “In addition to our existing safety processes, we are adding our own further testing of incoming ingredients.”

The company said Monday that it does not comment on pending litigation, but noted in a written statement that it is continuing with existing processes to “assess individual cases and provide financial assistance as appropriate to our consumers and/or their veterinarians directly.

“The voluntary recall is restricted to a specific vitamin mix delivered by a supplier that was used in limited production of canned wet dog food from August 2018,” the company said Monday. “That vitamin mix formula is not an ingredient in any of our dry foods.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates the safety of drugs, but sometimes a problem arises that triggers a recall. Here's how the recall process works and what you should do if a medicine you use is recalled.

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Tony Rizzo covers federal and state courts for The Kansas City Star, where he has been a reporter for more than 30 years. He is a Kansas City native and veteran of the U.S. Army.

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