COLUMBUS - Weeks after a FOX 8 investigation alerted consumers about a little-known Ohio law which allows deceased pets to be used in pet food, a state lawmaker introduced House Bill 560, banning remains from any dog or cat from being used in pet food.
In addition, the bill prohibits pet food from containing remains from an animal that was euthanized by any drug injected intravenously or through another nonvascular route.
"I saw this story on FOX 8 and knew immediately it was something that would be important," explained Ohio State Representative Laura Lanese, a Republican representing Ohio District 23.
In February, FOX 8 shed light on the current law and how a local lawyer questioned what is allowed in pet food. According to ORC 953.26, it allows the sale and transfer of raw rendering material, which is unfit for human consumption. The law allows the sale of the material to pet food manufacturers and others.
"It's absolutely outrageous that right now in Ohio you can use dead dogs and cats in pet food and our pets could potentially be eating dead dogs and cats," DanaMarie Pannella, an associate attorney with Holland and Muirden, said in February.
Since then she has been working with Rep. Lanese to write and amend sections of Ohio Revised Code.
"Introducing a bill that would eliminate the ability to put euthanized dogs and cats into pet food so rendering plants will not be able to use that as a source of food," said Rep. Lanese.
The call for change comes as the FDA announced a recall and investigation after the euthanasia drug, pentobarbital, an illegal substance in pet food, was found in several major brands in February. An FDA spokesperson says there is a no-tolerance policy for the drug in pet food.
"I don't really think we've ever really thought about what dog food is made of," said Rep. Lanese. "The thought that they could A, be eating other cats and dogs and B, that those cats and dogs could be euthanized with the euthanasia drug in them is really kind of shocking."
FOX 8 acquired a list from the Ohio Department of Agriculture in February which showed some of the companies licensed in the state to purchase raw rendering material, some supplying major pet food corporations. A few materials listed include carcasses, among other things. According to a spokesperson with the department, which vets rendering facilities, euthanized pets are not in pet food based on inspections conducted.
"The pet food companies are saying this isn't happening anyway, some of the evidence both antidotal and the established evidence is saying that yes these dogs and cats are getting pentobarbital in their pet food," said Rep. Lanese. "The question is, what is the source? Is it coming from cows or is it coming from dogs and cats? So that's one of the things we've been trying to research and there is some indication that rendering plants are given dogs and cats from animal shelters."
Representative Lanese, who introduced the bill Thursday, knows without support it could be an uphill battle before HB 560 becomes law.
"Rescue Me Ohio has been involved in many legislative efforts to address animal cruelty in the state of Ohio with respect to Goddard's Law, the puppy mill law," said Mary O'Connor-Shaver with Rescue Me Ohio, one of the largest animal advocacy groups in the state.
O'Connor-Shaver of Columbus says what makes her house a home are her loyal dogs and while she tries to feed them the best quality food, feels there are problems with current pet food laws.
"We contacted Representative Lanese and said we have some loopholes in our state law and we're very concerned that animals that have been slaughtered or euthanized and it's been done by chemical means are going into the very pet food that is being fed to very valuable members of the family," said O'Connor-Shaver, while sitting on her couch petting Sonny, a black and white Collie.
According to a legislative aide for Rep. Lanese, the bill will be referred to a committee, currently unknown next week; from there, hearings can be scheduled.
"Hopefully it will give them some assurance that they are not feeding their dog Fido from down the street," said State Rep. Lanese.