Interview: Attorney Emily Gardner on the Pet Food Recall

Emily Gardner
Emily Gardner

(KHNL) - Lawyers are preparing to file lawsuits against the makers of the tainted pet food. Honolulu attorney Emily Gardner represents several families whose pets have been affected, have become ill or have died after eating the recalled food.

Angela Keen: Welcome, Emily. What kind of calls have you been receiving?

Emily Gardner: I have received numerous calls from pet owners whose cats or dogs have become gravely ill or who have died after consuming the recalled food.

AK: You actually specialize in legal issues surrounding pets, you have a zoology background?

EG: I have a master's degree in zoology; I chose to use that in addition to my law degree. I handle mostly animal related cases, everything form dog bites to something like this.

AK: Have you ever seen anything like this in all your years of working with these issues?

EG: This particular recall is so widespread; it affects so many products, but in 2005 as you may be aware there was another recall involving Diamond dog food. But this one involves so many brands that it is really wide in scope.

AK: I understand that that case back in 2005, a lot of people didn't learn about it, didn't hear about it, that case is actually being filed this week?

EG:  The papers are going to be filed later this week.

AK: So we'll probably hear more about that. Let's clear up some misconceptions about the recall. Any calls you are getting or things people are saying in the community that you want to make clear to people out there, to help educate them a little more about this?

EG: Well, I think it's important not to get into a panic mode. If you believe that your pet has been affected, make sure first that he has consumed the recalled food specifically, and probably take him to the vet for some kind of an evaluation. They'll probably want to test his kidney functions.

AK: How many cases have been reported so far as far as your office is concerned?

EG: In Hawaii, we've received I would say somewhere around ten calls from people whose pets have become ill after consuming the food.

AK: Have any of them died?

EG: Yes. There have been some deaths.

AK: And what kind of recourse, when we are talking pets, for a family - this is like a family member.

EG: Absolutely. That's the thing. Pets are considered a form of property under the law, but they are not like a toaster or a lawnmower. Pets are able to think, they have emotions, so you dealing with something kind of different here. As you mentioned, we often times think of them as part of the family. So recovery can be challenging but it's not impossible.

AK: In the past when there have been food recalls in the past couple of months in the human food chain, we've heard almost immediately what it was, what infected the products. How come it's taking so long for us to understand what's going on with this particular situation?

EG: That's a very good question Angela, I'm sure it's on that most pet owners are wondering as well. Part of the problem is that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) regulates pet food and right now it only requires that pet food be safe to eat and contain no harmful substances. There is no pre-market approval. So there's no testing requirement for a pet food product before it goes on the market. Obviously, as this case has shown, this recall has shown, there need to be more stringent and more substantive guidelines for the sales and marketing of pet food.

AK: Any advice that you have for people out there who might be concerned about this whole situation. What should they do?

EG: Again, if your pet has consumed any of the recalled food - it's important to make sure that it's the recalled food - you don't want everybody marching off to the vet. But if your pet has consumed the recalled food, it the wet foods not the dry foods, the cuts and gravy that is in the pouches, you should take your animal to the vet vet and have them evaluated. The vet will know what to do.