Evanger’s Recall: A Timeline

Why pentobarbital may have been present in Evanger’s Hunk of Beef dog food is still an unknown at this point.

Pentobarbital, a barbiturate used for euthanasia, is the potential contaminant in a recent dog food recall. By: mshades

By now, you’ve likely seen the recall of a few specific lots of Evanger’s Hunk of Beef dog food. The reason? The cans of food may contain pentobarbital.

Pentobarbital is classified as a barbiturate. It can slow respiration, reduce blood pressure and cause sleepiness, dizziness or drowsiness.

This drug is also used for euthanization and has even been used in human executions.

Behind the Recall

The investigation behind the recall was brought about by the worst possible scenario: A dog had died.

At 7:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, Nikki Mael of Washougal, Washington, fed her 4 pugs a treat for the holiday — Evanger’s Hunk of Beef. Tito, Talula, Tank and Tinkerbell ate it up. But within 15 minutes, Mael says she knew something was wrong.

“They were falling over. So I grabbed them all and took them to the emergency vet,” Mael told KATU News. “And when they got there, they were just limp. They weren’t moving or anything. And so they were in ICU. Tito and Talula ate the most [food] and Talula passed away.”

All 4 of the pugs fell ill after reportedly being fed Evanger’s Hunk of Beef — and 1 died. Photo by Nikki Mael

The Timeline

Jan. 2: According to Evanger’s, the company is notified that there is a potential issue via Instagram.

“At 3:20 a.m., the same day we learned about the incident, Evanger’s contacted the pug owner asking to contact us directly so that we could work together to investigate this matter.”

Evanger’s says it obtained the lot number of the food and spent the remainder of the day tracking down the problem.

Jan. 3: Evanger’s is notified that there is at least 1 store with this food on its shelves and dispatches FedEx to pick up the cans and take them to the lab for testing. At 10:03 p.m., Evanger’s receives an email from Nikki Mael.

Jan. 16: Evanger’s announces that the 1st round of tests has come back negative, and shares the report on its website, along with a request: “We ask that the public discontinue any and all threats and harsh words to either party, as this has been a hard time for everyone involved.”

Jan. 21: Evanger’s posts another test result, showing negative results for botulinum.

“This is terrible,” says Nikki Mael, whose pug died. Video still: KUTV

Jan. 23: Evanger’s posts yet another test result, demonstrating that the food was sterile (no pathogens or harmful bacteria).

Jan. 29: Mael posts an image to Instagram showing that independent testing on her dog’s body has confirmed the presence of pentobarbital in the dog’s stomach.

Jan. 30: Evanger’s posts an update stating that claims have arisen about the FDA and Evanger’s food, but that the FDA has not “completed additional tests” as well as asking the public not to share “unsubstantiated information.”

Feb. 3: The recall is officially announced.

Here’s a news update regarding the Evanger’s recall:

The Recall

The FDA posted Evanger’s recall announcement on Feb. 3. Of course, once the recall was announced, it went viral. Thinking about our pets’ exposure to salmonella or botulinum is bad enough — but to think that we could unwittingly euthanize our own pets doesn’t even bear contemplation.

There is more to explore on this recall. For now, this is the timeline of events and each party’s response. Did Evanger’s act accordingly? How could a euthanasia drug get into a pet food to begin with?

We’ll be continuing to explore this topic, so stay tuned. In the meantime, we send our heartfelt condolences to Nikki Mael and her pug family.

Melissa Smith

View posts by Melissa Smith
Melissa Smith, discussions manager for Petful, has been researching and writing about pet behaviors for several years. A longtime pet lover, she lives in Massachusetts with her teenage son, their cat Harrison and the spirit of their German shepherd named Gypsy. Melissa is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in multimedia design and hopes to adopt as many needy animals as she can.


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