Dog owners criticise pet-food regulator as more dogs die in Victoria

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Dog owners are calling for better pet food regulation after the death of four more dogs in East Victoria, which led to an investigation into a meat processing facility.

Important points:

  • More dogs have died of liver poisoning in east Victoria
  • Authorities are investigating a pet minced meat product that has been linked to the sick dogs
  • Pet owners and a Victorian MP are calling for better rules on animal feed

Victorian government agencies PrimeSafe, which regulates slaughterhouses, and Agriculture Victoria are investigating the spate of dog deaths that ABC knows has now hit nine, with more than 50 dogs treated at the hospital in the past three weeks.

The affected dogs suffer from liver toxicity and live in a region that stretches from Cranbourne in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne through the Latrobe Valley to Raymond Island in East Gippsland in the east.

A common link between the cases is that all of the domestic dogs ate meat from the Maffra Knackery, also known as Backmans Meats and Backmans Greyhound Supplies, which have a shop in Seaford.

The Maffra Knackery, which delivers meat across the region, didn’t respond to the ABC. (

ABC Gippsland: Rio Davis


It became known that the pet food authority PrimeSafe cannot order a mandatory recall of pet food, but has asked the nibbler to “conduct a voluntary recall of the product”.

In a statement, PrimeSafe said it was informed of the problem by Agriculture Victoria on July 2.

“PrimeSafe continues to investigate compliance with the Meat Processing Act and Australian standard at a licensed facility related to canine disease and death in East Gippsland,” the statement said.

However, PrimeSafe and Agriculture Victoria have yet to definitively determine the cause of the dogs’ death.

On July 2nd, Bairnsdale retailer Doggie Den launched a voluntary recall of 10 kilograms of minced beef products from the Maffra Knackery and advised customers to “stop feeding your pets and return the leftovers” to us.

Pet owners are annoyed by the lack of recall

Sue Graham’s greyhound Pash died on July 7th, and her other dog, Pebbles, was repeatedly abandoned at her local veterinary clinic.

“I’ve been a nervous wreck for the past two weeks because when you try to get a sick dog to eat and just can’t, it’s very distressing,” she said.

A pair with three pet greyhounds Paul Graham with his son’s dog and his wife Sue with their greyhounds Pebbles and Pash, both of whom developed liver toxicity. (

Delivered: Sue Graham


Ms. Graham said she had raw beef shipped from the Maffra Knackery around June 10, and she only discovered there might be a problem with the animal feed when she was posting at a veterinary clinic in Bairnsdale Main on July 3 Street read.

She is furious that neither PrimeSafe nor the Maffra Knackery have contacted her to warn her of the potential animal health problem, even though authorities have not yet confirmed the cause of death.

“They have our name, address, and phone number because our meat is delivered straight to our door, but I haven’t heard from them,” she said.

“Why wasn’t I told to recall this meat? I was never contacted by the slaughterhouse or PrimeSafe.”

The Maffra Knackery has been contacted several times by the ABC, but has not responded.

MP calls for change after “absolutely terrible” pet deaths

Victorian Animal Justice Party MP Andy Meddick said the situation was “absolutely dire” and he wanted “an absolute tightening of the rules”.

“If you are a retail business, you should have the same … hygiene standards that a slaughterhouse that kills sheep and cattle for human consumption should follow,” he said.

“The standards that should apply to our pets shouldn’t be any different.”

A German Shepherd Dog on a table at the vet Andrew Lawrence’s German Shepherd Maggie is unwell. (

Delivered: Andrew Lawrence


Glengarry North pet owner Andrew Lawrence said his German shepherd, Maggie, was also very ill and was being treated for liver problems after eating the pet food from the Gippsland cracking plant.

Mr Lawrence said his vet warned him that the dog’s food could be causing the problem and he contacted the retailer Doggie Den to confirm it was the same supplier.

He said he hadn’t heard from the Maffra Knackery or PrimeSafe, but an Agriculture Victoria vet interviewed him about his sick dog.

“I feel like (PrimeSafe) was acting incredibly slowly,” he said.

“I think they have a duty to let the public know … rather than relying on Facebook or word of mouth or other companies that have sold their product.”

Mr Lawrence said he wanted a better system for notifying the public when there was a health problem with animal feed.

“I’m really shocked that pet food sales are not regulated,” he said.

“I think there really needs to be legislation to have more oversight of pet food companies and how they make their food and what they sell.”

“I have a freezer full of meat and I’m too scared to use it”

A Churchill rescue animal owner, Patricia, who did not want her surname to be used, receives regular direct shipments from the crackers and has not been able to get answers from them or PrimeSafe as to which batches of meat might be problematic.

“I have a freezer full of meat and I’m too scared to use it [until the investigation is resolved],” She said.

Agriculture Victoria spokeswoman said agency was investigating “why dogs are gathering” [was] have severe liver disease in the Bairnsdale area and are working with other authorities to identify possible causes ”.

“As a precaution, we recommend that you contact your veterinarian immediately if your dog has eaten fresh or frozen raw animal meat and your dog is not doing well,” she said.