It started with a phone call from his wife: We’re out of dog food.
So Frank Lucido of Discovery Bay went to the store and bought a bag of Purina’s Beneful kibble style dog foods around Christmas. His dogs loved it.
But three weeks after eating it, his eight-year-old English bulldog Dozer is dead. And his 11-year-old Labrador named Remo and 4-year-old German Shepherd named Nella are still recovering from kidney failure, lethargy and diarrhea.
“I feel very strongly there’s a definite situation with this dog food,” Lucido said Thursday in an interview. “The doctor said the dog had been poisoned. The dogs are part of the family. It’s been real rough.”
Lucido sued Nestle Purina PetCare Company Feb. 5 in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California alleging the dog food contains propylene glycol, which it says is an animal toxin used in automobile antifreeze, and mycotoxins, a group of toxins produced by fungus that occurs in grains. The suit asks for unspecified damages and to make sure Purina's products are "safe for dogs."
Lucido alleges that in the past four years there have been more than 3,000 complaints online about dogs becoming ill or dying after eating Beneful, having shown “consistent symptoms,” including stomach and related internal bleeding, liver malfunction or failure, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, weight loss, seizures and kidney failure. The complaints about Beneful report symptoms that are consistent with mycotoxin poisoning, according to the suit.
Since he filed the suit, which has gotten national media coverage, one of Lucido’s attorneys, Michael Ram of San Francisco, said at least 1,000 have come forward complaining about similar situations. The suit is seeking class-action status.
"I have never had a flood of calls and emails who said, 'The same thing happened to me.' The phone is literally ringing off the hook," Ram said.
Purina said in a statement regarding Lucido’s suit that “there are no quality issues with Beneful,” and said dog owners could continue feeding it to their dogs without any concern.
“Like other pet foods, Beneful is occasionally the subject of social media-driven misinformation,” the company said in its statement. “On-line postings often contain false, unsupported and misleading allegations that cause undue concern and confusion for our Beneful customers.”
The Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of propylene glycol as an additive in human food and animal feed, and Purina screens its grain to prevent mycotoxins from getting into its products, spokesman Keith Schopp said.
The FDA has not issued any warnings about Beneful kibble-style dog food. In a statement, the FDA said it does not comment on pending litigation.
Jennifer Dooren, a spokeswoman, declined to comment to the Associated Press on whether the FDA were investigating the food.
The results of toxicology testing on Lucido’s English Bulldog, Dozer, who died, are pending, according to the lawsuit.
The suit asks the court to expand the case to include other dog owners whose dogs were sickened or died. It asks for unspecified damages and restitution, although it says the claims exceed $5 million.
In recent years, Beneful has faced two lawsuits that were dismissed by the courts, according to Purina’s statement.
However, in a lawsuit settled in May, Purina and Waggin’ Train LLC agreed to create a $6.5 million fund to compensate pet owners who claimed their pets were sickened after eating China-made jerky treats.
At the time, FDA officials said the pet treats were linked to more than 1,000 deaths in dogs and more than 4,800 complaints of animal illness. Three humans were sickened after eating the treats.
For now, Lucido just wants to stop this from happening to anyone else.
“I’ve been trusting Purina for a long time,” he said. “ Purina Puppy Chow is what you fed your dog. But this is a situation people should not have to go through.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.