SAN DIEGO, May 20 (UPI) -- Petco, one of the country's top two pet-related retailers, announced Tuesday it would stop selling all pet treats imported from China in it's more than 1,300 hundred nationwide locations by the end of the year in response to the FDA's recent release linking toxic jerky treats imported from the country with nearly 5,000 cases of illness in pets and the death of more than 1,000 dogs.
"We know some pet parents are wary of dog and cat treats made in China, especially Chicken Jerky products, and we've heard their concerns," Petco CEO Jim Myers said in a statement.
"As a leader in the industry and the trusted partner for our pet parents, we're eager to make this transition and to expand our assortment of safe and healthy treats, the majority of which are made right here in the U.S.," he added.
PetSmart, Petco's largest pet retail competitor, has did not immediately respond to media inquiries asking whether they would take similar steps in light of the FDA's release.
The release, issued earlier this week, advises pet owners to avoid all treats imported from China, especially chicken, duck, and sweet potato jerky treats. Symptoms include gastrointestinal/liver disease, kidney or urinary disease, and various other signs such as neurologic, dermatologic, and immunologic symptoms. vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy.
"We've been following the FDA warnings and related customer concerns closely, and we've been actively reducing our China-made assortment and expanding our American-made offerings for several years now," Myers said, explaining that the company, which has already ceased selling pet food made in China, will be switching to treats made in the United States, New Zealand, Australia, and South America.
The FDA has been investigating reports of and issuing warnings about animal illnesses and deaths caused by Chinese treats since 2007 but still does not know exactly what is causing the symptoms. The agency is now partnering with the CDC and vets across the country in an ongoing case study to determine an explanation.
"We know the FDA hasn't yet identified a direct cause for the reported illnesses, but we decided the uncertainty of the situation outweighs the lack of actual proof," said the CEO.
"Very simply, we feel this decision is in the best interest of the pets we all love and, ultimately, for our business," he said.
Pet owners should contact a vet immediately if a pet shows any signs of illness and are also encouraged to report complaints to the FDA's website or by calling 1-888-INFO-FDA.