An Orland Park man who says that tainted treats killed his dog has filed a lawsuit potentially seeking more than $5 million from the treats’ manufacturer and the retailer where he purchased the product.
Dennis Adkins filed the lawsuit Wednesday in federal court in Chicago against Nestle Purina and Wal-Mart. He’ll ask a judge to allow other pet owners to join the lawsuit, which could potentially include hundreds of people who’ve lodged complaints related to the treats.
Adkins contends his 9-year-old Pomeranian, Cleopatra, died within days after eating Purina’s Waggin’ Train brand of treats. Adkins had previously rebuffed an offer from Purina to pay for veterinary costs. The suit seeks unspecified compensatory costs and punitive damages, although it indicates the potential damages could exceed $5 million.
Adkins said he bought the treats, which consist of chicken-wrapped yams and are made in China, on March 11 and that soon after eating them, Cleopatra fell ill. He said the treats were the only change to the dog’s diet, and that he and his wife regularly prepared home-cooked meals for Cleopatra and their other Pomeranian, Pharaoh.
Pharaoh refused to touch the treats, but Cleopatra ate them and became ill, gulping water and refusing food, according to Adkins. After taking the dog to a veterinarian, Adkins was told her kidneys were shutting down. The dog died March 26.
In his lawsuit, Adkins said he purchased the treats because they were advertised as “wholesome” as well as being “nutritious & great tasting.” The suit alleges negligence on Purina’s part.
Dog treats imported from China are the subject of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration “cautionary warning.” First issued in 2007, the warning was reissued in November after the FDA saw a spike in complaints about dogs becoming ill after eating the treats, including reports of dogs dying.
The FDA advised dog owners to watch for symptoms including decreased activity, vomiting, increased water consumption and/or increased urination and diarrhea. The FDA has not recalled any of the treats because no contaminant has been found in the products, and none of the brands has been identified by name by the agency.
Adkins claims he didn’t give the dog more than the recommended one treat per day. Keith Schopp, a spokesman for Nestle Purina and Waggin’ Train, said Waggin’ Train products are safe to feed as directed. He declined to comment on the lawsuit.
The company, on its website, says the Waggin’ Train products are made at facilities in China “that meet U.S. Department of Agriculture standards for quality and safety.”
Dianna Gee, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart, said the retailer is “aware of the concerns regarding chicken jerky from China, and we have been in contact with the FDA regarding the investigation.” She said Wal-Mart requires pet food and treat makers to have the same level of safety certification as food for human consumption.