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21 May 2010


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Nancy Freedman-Smith

When I told my friend Deb this yesterday she said "guess the pop eaters will have to go underground to." Ha! Nice post Christie.

Liz Palika

The Foundation for Pet Provided Therapy www.loveonaleash.org does not ban dogs because of their diet! smile....

Chris L.

Another example of a Guelph goof mentality:

The questions raised here are exactly on target (contrary to the stats/conclusions from Univ. of Guelph and their ability to disconnect one from the other).

They also did a similar disconnect with raw milk issue,i.e. they point to website realrawmilkfacts for their raw milk conclusions rather than real research or a balanced view.

Stanford, however, is actually conducting a presumably double-blind study to determine whether raw milk eases lactose intolerance, which is a problem for between 30 million and 50 million Americans.

The Stanford researchers seem not to be concerned about the explanation offered by the new semi-official web site, realrawmilkfacts, that "it would not be ethical to intentionally expose research participants to a high-risk product such as raw milk" as part of a scientific study.

If you live in the Palo Alto area, and have lactose intolerance, you may want to participate. See: http://nutrition.stanford.edu/projects/RawMilkStudy.html


yes.. I agree with Yes Biscuit.. who knows what you feed your dog?? if you dog gets into the garbage and licks the chicken container do you have to remove them from the program..? Yikes.. your dog eats a cat poop..?? mine will seek them out no matter how careful I am..

Original Lori

Is that hamburger meat between your toes??!!! Out! Out! Damn Spot.

Gina Spadafori

Do you have to swear on a holy book that you don’t feed your dog raw food or what?

Comment by YesBiscuit — May 21, 2010

Yes. This one. :)

Christie Keith

Dear Ms. Spadafori,

You totally owe me not just a new keyboard, but a new LAPTOP. Also, please replace this coffee I just spewed.


Christie Keith


Do you have to swear on a holy book that you don't feed your dog raw food or what? What if Delta's Raw Food Police see you sharing an apple w/your dog - banishment?


I. can't. believe. this.



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this is really, really, really....SAD! How on earth could any organization place a ban on animals that eat healthy.

We have fed raw forever....and fosters in compromised condition get raw....feeding all of the dogs raw, well...that was a lot of work. Personal dogs raw....compromised dogs raw and freshpet....

We feed FreshPet as they are a sponsor and the dogs LOVE the food...easier for me when I have several dogs in foster...but they all get a raw chicken wing and back to clean their teeth...I have never in a millon years imagined Delta would ban dogs on a raw diet...I am flabbergasted!

Anne T.

Christie, in your excellent piece you neglected to mention that dogs as a species are coprophagic. Of course, consuming feces isn't technically eating raw food, as the material has undergone significant chemical changes in the animal's digestive tract. lol.

A trusted source told me that apparently a Delta Society Board member is a managing director for Purina. Do I smell a whiff of collusion?

Gina Spadafori

Christie and I talked about that last night when she was mulling over this piece.

I personally don't tend to see collusion and am not much of a conspiracy type. I tend to blame most things on greed, incompetence, laziness, stress or deadlines, lack of critical thinking skills or reliance on prevailing attitudes.

In other words, as we used to say in the newsroom about people who seemed to see "conspiracy" in every headline: Never blame on malice that which can be blamed on incompetence.

The percentage of people who are willing/able to home-prepare their pets' meals is small, and will remain so. The "movement" is not a threat to pet-food manufacturers and never will be.

But I could easily see a person in the pet food industry hearing that raw-fed dogs are used in therapy dog work and reacting with predictable horror: "OMG! Plague dogs! We can't have that!"

And the next thing you know ... there's a ban.

It's a knee-jerk reaction to a problem that isn't, and a solution that isn't, either.

Hell, you want to talk something to be concerned about? MRSAs, which jump species easily and in all directions.

H. Houlahan

I used to recommend Delta for those who wanted to pursue therapy animal certification, because of their rigor.

No longer.


Ok, this has to be a government enabled ($$$) decision. Same as the FDA's raw bone idiocy a few weeks back. Someone recieved something.

Nathan Winograd

But what is up with the Univ or Guelph? They did a temp test study to purportedly conclude that shelter temp testing had good predictive ability. But if you actually look at the data, it is the same as that above. The data itself contradicts the conclusion. And, as noted above on this issue, one of the testers had a professional conflict with the industry.


I personally don’t tend to see collusion and am not much of a conspiracy type. I tend to blame most things on greed, incompetence, laziness, stress or deadlines, lack of critical thinking skills or reliance on prevailing attitudes.

I'll vote for lack of critical thinking skills and reliance on prevailing (ignorant) attitudes. Because Delta's ban on raw-fed dogs is consistent with their ban on schutzhund-trained dogs.


Years back (over 2o now, in fact) when I first started feeding my dogs raw, my vet fired me from his practice. He bluntly told me that if I insisted on feeding my dogs 'raw meat', that I'd have to see a different vets. All the vet techs stood around tsking and making faces at me when I came in to pick up our files.

It was humiliating.

I can't believe that, 20+ years later, people still believe this crap.

Melissa Garcia Logan


The first vet I saw at the hospital we use was extremely combative with me over my rawfeeding, particularly because I raw feed a dog with early renal failure. Boy, did she have to eat crow when she called me to read me his lab results--all in the normal range.


I think the Delta Society is definitely ignoring a lot of facts and I hope that they take Lew's message to heart and reconsider their policy. It's not like there are so many trained therapy dogs to start with that we can afford to turn away otherwise perfect animals and handlers.


Stupidity bothers me.


Christie, my favourite part was the photo caption.

We as a society are so germ phobic (hand sanitizer anyone?) it's ridiculous. I remember as a child doing all kinds of horrifically unsanitary things...

And lets be realistic, the vast majority of us continue to do all kinds of horrifically unsanitary things.

For example, your average kitchen sink contains more bacteria than your average toilet bowl. Don't mean anyone is recommending doing the dishes in the toilet.

Another example, you eat out don't you? Any idea what you're eating? Let's just say if you knew you'd never eat again.

Lastly, have you, as a human being, ever (gasp!) swapped saliva with another human being? Or WORSE? lol

In terms of really serious, resistant bacteria, we need to be extremely careful. But our obsession with killing every last little germ, regardless of how innocuous it is in reality, is part of what has led us to grow these super bacteria in the first place.

When will we learn?

Oh, and for the record - 12 years of feeding raw foods (not exclusively) without a single issue.


Right now my local NPR affiliate is talking about alfalfa sprouts with salmonella being recalled. Time to ban any therapy rabbits that eat fresh food.

How long do you think I need to boil my lettuce to make sure it's safe?

Jessica Hekman

Concerning the study which showed bacteria on food bowls after they're cleaned -- this study was also referenced in a talk about raw food given at my vet school. One person in the audience pointed out that the tests run on those bowls for bacteria were PCR. In other words, they were looking for bacteria DNA, which you can find if the bacteria are dead and incapable of infecting anyone. A more interesting test would have been to try to culture the pathogenic bacteria from the bowls -- if that worked, then you might have an argument that the bowls were dangerous. But apparently that wasn't done, so all the tests showed is that bacteria was there at one point.

I have unfortunately not yet gotten hold of the actual reference for this article, and I'd love to read it myself. If anyone knows its title/authors, I'd be curious!


A few more of the studies ~







Food bowl study


From Scott Weese, one of the writers of this study. (Also read the comment section)




Therapy Dogs of Vermont bans raw-fed dogs.




Pet-Assisted Therapy (P-AT) Dogs at the San Diego Humane Society

The dog must:

#8. Not be on a raw food diet



Joni Scheftel DVM, MPH, diplomate ACVPMState Public Health Veterinarian

Minnesota Department of Health [email protected]

March 10, 2010

When is it ok to feed raw-food diets

• When your dog is not a therapy dog

http://tinyurl.com/2c62oh9 (page 9)


I was sharing this topic with Billy this morning and after I explained the reason for the ban was the bacteria carried by the raw fed dogs, he said "Oh. I thought you were going to say it was because the dogs had developed a taste for flesh." I love him.

Gina Spadafori

Yes, well, again ... I do think there's widespread cultural bias against raw feeding, and that's what we're dealing with in part.

And Lew Olsen's point is a good one: Is this a road you really want to go down? Is witch-hunting raw-feeders so worth it that you're willing to shut down all therapy animal programs?

Because really, that's the only conclusion that can be drawn: The interactions are just too dangerous to be continued.

If the risk is so dire that raw-fed pets cannot be allowed near immunocompromised people, than NO pets could be safe enough, considering the comparable risks of MRSA, etc.

So which is it? If the risks outweigh the benefits, then the visits must be stopped. But that determination must be made across the board, not be used to push an agenda against a way of feeding many have chosen for themselves AND their pets -- meals from identifiable whole foods from known sources, prepared at home under known conditions.

Really, I would LOVE to see this sort of alarm coming from the experts with regards to the rampant use of antibiotics in concentrated animal feeding operations. I guess the growth of MRSAs in CAFO's isn't NEARLY as scary to corporate agri-biz as the prospect of having an increasing number of food consumers go "off the grid" when it comes to buying processed food for pets or people.

Look, I'm not a 100 percent feeder of home-prepared meals from scratch for me or my pets. I think there are commercial foods that are good ones, and people need to make their own decisions for themselves and their pets. And I even dabble in junk food now and then, because I get a wild hair for it. Brat at the ballpark? Yeah, baby.

But if the pet-food industry has chosen to recover from 2007 by "scaring the sheep back into the fold" after the massive recall of tainted pet food and subsequent recalls since, well, good luck with that.

We're not sheep any more.

Gina Spadafori

Oh that's funny, in a, you know, sick and twisted way!

Kim Thornton

What other kind of way is there, Gina?

Jessica Hekman

Thanks, thisishowudoit! I appreciate the link. Looks like they DID culture for actual live bacteria -- my bad, I guess my source was wrong.

sue keys

Well, I guess nursing homes/hospitals/recovery centers must now ban visitors from kissing/greeting with a kiss their healing relatives, since human mouths are likely far funkier and more dangerous than my corgi's. Pitiful.

Amy Suggars

We are so fortunate to live in an era where a number of people have enough time on their hands to be so concerned about what other people are feeding their dogs. I must have missed the news the day when all the deadly dog-human zoonoses were revealed.

My dog, Fizz, says that cats should be completely banned from being pets since they harbor Toxoplasmosis gondii, which is known to have serious health consequences in humans, including hallucinations and erratic behavior AND an increase in traffic accidents caused by men. Fizz is going to start a petition.

Citation:Flegr J, Klose J, Novotná M, Berenreitterová M, Havlíček J (2009). "Increased incidence of traffic accidents in Toxoplasma-infected military drivers and protective effect RhD molecule revealed by a large-scale prospective cohort study". BMC Infectious Diseases 9 (72): 72. doi:10.1186/1471-2334-9-72. http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2334/9/72

jill peters

I eat sushi... Am I banned as a handler from delta???


Call me cynical but I have trouble with the fact that a Purina Marketing Director is on Delta's Board of Directors, Purina gave Delta $400,000 in 2008 and now Delta bans raw fed dogs.

Geraldine Clarke

The answer to having vets who harass you for feeding raw is to find a vet who feeds raw. I have two wonderful raw-feeding vets now who promote raw-feeding (even though it decreases their income because their patients become so healthy. ) In 15+ years of feeding raw, I have had NO infections of any kind in any of my animals, unlike before when I was feeding kibble. This is ancecdotal, of course, but there have been no large, long-term, unbiased studies on raw feeding because no one wants to fund them. Purina et al. certainly won't and the pockets of the producers of commercial raw diets are not deep enough.

My therapy dog and I were trained and certified by the Assistance Dog Institute. I've never felt the need of Delta's insurance so we have always worked independently. Delta is going to lose a lot of wonderful dogs because their owners would prefer to work independently rather than to sublect their animals to an inferior diet. My only worry is that Delta's illogic will eventually infect the managers of the places we work.


not to mention the Pedigree Foods is a major sponsor of Delta Society . . .

Patrice Lambourne

Oh, for heaven's sake! I have eaten and enjoyed raw steak for more than fifty years! I know where the beef comes from (local) and raw steak has been a family treat all of my life. No one in our family has ever had any disease from it. So, now am I going to be banned from going to hospitals, rehab, or nursing facilities because I eat raw beef and sushi???

Much ado about nothing!!

Gina Spadafori

From their website, it appears you mean Purina, not Pedigree.

And again, I think it's unfair to suggest that the pet-food industry forced this decision on Delta to help their bottom line. I think it's more an expression of widely held beliefs within the mainstream veterinary community that home-prepared meals -- and raw ones in particular -- have no proven advantages and some proven risks, and thus, should not be encouraged.

This is not my view, but I know it to be pervasive.

As for the conspiracy angle ... c'mon. The number of people who are willing/able to provide home-prepared meals for their pets is small and not ever likely to get large enough to worry the commercial pet food industry, in the same way that the fast-food industry isn't exactly losing sleep over "locavores," vegans or any other small segment of people who are extremely particular about what they eat and where it comes from.


I think the aspect of the directive that bothers me most of all is the sweeping nature. Banning dogs that enjoy a raw meaty bone?? Banning dogs from households where other pets are fed raw? Epidemiologic basis (if any) for this?? I don't know of a single vet who will argue the benefits of a pet enjoying a marrow or knuckle bone for dental health. Delta is on a slippery slope with this edict. What comes next? No black dogs because of "black dog syndrome?" Only households that are vegetarian can have Delta Pet Partners? It seems to me the message is that if raw food is in the household, it constitutes a risk of generating a Salmonella shedding Pet Partner! If Delta will look carefully at their data, they will see that they are pointing also to the fact that non-raw fed dogs are shedders of Salmonella. I fear that they are endangering the entire Pet Therapy enterprise on the basis of the uber-cautionary policy of some old-timer vets who are paid by Purina.


Is Delta Society assuming that not one of their kibble-fed volunteers has ever gone out and dined on some rabbit feces in the yard? Or how about their own leavings? Or that the owners of commercially-fed dogs never take them hiking or allow them to play in ponds and streams, or at the dog park where bacteria is present by the bushel?

Although I allow my raw fed dogs all those things, (minus the coprophagia, but let's face it, if you're out hiking through the woods...), I feel that a fresh, raw, human-grade chicken wing is a far more "sanitary" thing for my dog to get his mouth on than many of the other items our pets get in to. Not to mention that my dogs' immune systems seem stronger, as was made evident by a bout of bordatella that was passed around to the many canines in my apartment building and which lasted 2 weeks in every case, but my guys were symptom-free in 48 hours. There's something to be said for that-

-especially when your dog has to be present in a sterile setting like a hospital, which is where one of my raw-fed dogs works as a juvenile therapy dog.

He goes in there clean, free of fleas and ticks, freshly bathed and groomed. We are working with kids undergoing treatment for life-threatening diseases, after all. Cleanliness is mandatory. His treats consist of tiny bits of light cheese (not raw meat!). His teeth are as clean as can be, and I can't say that for his kibble-fed co-volunteers. When does THAT bacteria become a risk??

He snuggles in with the kids, nuzzles their hands and has even stolen a kiss on a few noses. Every single time he visits he brings so much joy and has never once left a trail of salmonella or anything else for that matter. And we've been doing this for quite some time now, 2-4 times per month. You'd think something would have come up if this bacteria was a risk, especially with the immune-compromised kids that we work with, but it just hasn't. I don't expect it to. Ever.

And so, Delta Society, my raw-fed dog and I will continue to do the work that we love. My little pup happens to be extraordinary with the patients. He is a joy, an asset and a tool for patient therapy and recovery. For as long as we can, we will be there. It just won't be with you.

H. Houlahan

The number of people who are willing/able to provide home-prepared meals for their pets is small and not ever likely to get large enough to worry the commercial pet food industry, in the same way that the fast-food industry isn’t exactly losing sleep over “locavores,” vegans or any other small segment of people who are extremely particular about what they eat and where it comes from.

I disagree that these industries don't have their knickers in a twist about raw/local/vegan/organic and other alternative food values. Michael Pollan gives them the vapors.

Whether or not that is *rational* is another argument, but Big Food sure *acts* like it feels threatened.

Relatively few pet owners feed raw -- but I bet a lot of people who are involved enough to do serious therapy work with their pets DO. (And the number of raw feeders is sure growing hereabouts -- witness the supply problem for poultry necks and backs after the pet food recalls.)

I don't have a problem believing that Delta's corporate sponsors saw an opportunity to cut this "threat" off at the knees by pushing for this "safety" decision. Always couching it in the most altruistic terms, of course.

I'm sure they think that if they can stigmatize this feeding practice among an influential segment of "early adopters" they will have won the "debate."

Carol J

this is ridiculous. I used to participate in a similar therapy program in Canada; we quit when the board demanded we submit proof of annual vaccinations. BTW my dogs were cleaner than some of the hospitals we visited !


Christie, we have communicated in the past regarding over-vaccination of dogs. I am in Australia and have been lobbying that issue here for a few years. My last dog (recently deceased) was a rescued Rottie X GSD and became an accredited owner trained Assistance Dog. She was permitted to accompany me wherever I went - and was raw fed. I can certainly understand Delta's need to ensure dogs which participate in their programs are clean and healthy, but cannot understand them excluding dogs on the basis of their being raw fed - unless it is in response to some 'incentive' from a pet food sponsor. It is a great shame in my opinion.

Deborah Wood

My dog Pogo and I have been Delta Society Pet Partners for the past 8 years. We have spoken at Delta Society fund-raisers and I've been a big fan of the organization.

Pogo is a raw-fed dog. If Delta Society decides to keep with their June 30 deadline to ban participation, we will no longer be Pet Partners.

This is so sad.



Interesting message from our friends at Purina! It couldn't POSSIBLY have had anything to do with the Delta decision??? Do you think???

Christie Keith

I think that's up to the Delta partners who feed raw diets... will they fight with facts and a united front, or go into hiding/change how they feed/leave the program?

Gina Spadafori

I guess it comes down to: Did the volunteers build the Delta Society, or did its Board and sponsors?

If the volunteers united in support of ALL to protect the integrity of the programs, them Delta will have to change course.

Remember when the AKC pulled back from its sweet deal with Hunte when its member clubs revolted?

Geographic organization is not only not necessary, it's not even an issue. Get a FB group and an e-mail list. Spread the word and have everyone let Delta know this won't fly, and why.

Or support a different organization, even if you have to build one from the ground up.

Christie Keith

Then, Rawfooddoggie, they'll lose. It's that simple. They either need to organize and make alliances with other groups around a shared interest, using the tools Gina outlined below, or give in. There really is no other set of options. THEY are the stakeholders, and if they're too few in number to matter, then they have to do what all minorities do, and organize themselves and cultivate allies. There is a larger principle here, if they want to try to and use it to reach out to their non-raw-feeding colleagues. But no one can do it for them. And the rest is just excuses.

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