A woman, whose dog got seriously ill after eating treats made in China, received a letter from the manufacturer offering to pay half of her veterinarian bill in exchange for her silence.
Helene Dollinger recently bought Waggin' Train Jerky Tenders for her standard poodles, Duv and Ari, and Duv became seriously ill within a half-hour of consuming them.
"Blood was pouring out of his rectum," she said.
Dollinger rushed the poodle to the veterinarian, and the recovery took two weeks.
After Duv's illness, Dollinger called Waggin' Treats to complain, and the Anderson, S.C., company agreed to pay half of her $300 veterinarian bill – with a caveat.
She had to sign a confidentiality agreement.
"Ms. Dollinger agrees that she, her spouse or partner, family members and veterinarian agree to keep this release and the incident it addresses in confidence and make no public statements as to either," read the company's letter.
"I ripped up their check and I sent it back and I told (them) to stuff it," she said.
A company spokesman said there is no record of Dollinger's complaint.
Yet hundreds of dog owners have made similar grievances about Waggin' Train to the Food and Drug Administration in recent years, and the agency has been investigating the treats.
"People have actually brought the treats in and said, 'Hey, we've had some issues here,'" Tampa veterinarian Erick Mears said. "I think it's definitely something to be wary of."
The FDA hasn't been able to pinpoint what's making the dogs sick, so the treats haven't been recalled. Investigators are slated to further investigate in China.
The FDA has twice issued warnings to consumers about all chicken tenders or chicken jerky treats imported from China – no matter the brand.
The agency also reminded consumers that the treats "should not be substituted for a balanced diet and are intended to be fed occasionally in small quantities." Waggin' Train said on its website that could be a cause of the illnesses.
Waggin' Train, which is owned by St. Louis-based Nestle Purina, defends the safety of the treats and refuses to voluntarily recall the product.
Mears, of BluePearl Veterinary Partners, suggests doing some research before selecting a treat.
"Really (make) sure you feel comfortable with where the treat is coming from and the company that it's coming from," he said.
Dollinger and her dogs learned that the hard way – and she won't keep quiet about the issue.
"Read the labels," Dollinger said. "Not just the contents but to see where's it's made and where it comes from."