All-Vegan Diet Proposed for L.A.’s Shelter Dogs

Earlier this year, the Los Angeles City Council announced its intention to make L.A. the largest no-kill city in the United States. And now the city’s animal shelters may become one-of-a-kind for another reason: a commissioner on the city’s Board of Animal Services has proposed that dogs in the six shelters be fed an all-vegan diet.

The proposal was made at a board meeting late last month by Commissioner Roger Wolfson, an attorney and screenwriter. He pointed out some studies that show dogs that eat only plant-based foods are healthier — and the food is better for the environment. A study published in August found that dogs (and cats) are responsible for 25 to 30 percent of the environmental impact of meat consumption in the United States.

“We have to embrace the fact that the raising and killing of animals for food purposes must only be done if we have absolutely no other choice,” Wolfson said at the meeting, the Washington Post reports. “This is about the long-term survival of every man, woman and child in this room, and all of the people in our lives.”

Among those opposing Wolfson’s proposal is the chief veterinarian for the city of Los Angeles, Jeremy Prupas. “We recognize that individual, privately owned dogs can do well on a wide variety of diets (commercial, vegetarian, organic, grain-free, gluten-free, raw and vegan),” he wrote in a report. “However, that is quite a different population than the group of dogs we encounter daily in our animal shelters.”

Prupas wrote that he contacted three unidentified clinical nutritionists from the veterinary schools at UC Davis and the University of Pennsylvania, a veterinary toxicologist and a shelter medicine specialist, and all agreed with him that a vegan diet was not a good idea. Among their concerns were inadequate levels of protein, calcium and phosphorus; the much higher cost of the food; and that vegan dogs allegedly poop more than their omnivorous brethren, meaning more work for shelter employees.

A veterinarian who does support an all-vegan diet for shelter dogs, Dr. Armaiti May, said in a statement that feed-grade, meat-based dog food can be contaminated with “industrial chemicals” and “heavy metals.” But so can feed-grade vegan dog food products, according to pet food safety advocate Susan Thixton on the Truth about Pet Food website.

The FDA allows feed-grade pet foods to contain waste ingredients from many sources, so the risk of contamination “is NOT limited solely to meat ingredient dog foods,” she wrote.

Wolfson told the Board of Animal Services that a vegan diet could help save the lives of some of the 31,000 animals killed every year to feed shelter dogs. However, according to Thixton, feed-grade pet foods provided to shelter animals typically contain the by-products of animals that have already been slaughtered for human consumption, not animals that have been killed specifically for dogs to eat.

Are Vegan Diets Healthy for Dogs?

Dogs can thrive on a vegan or vegetarian diet, notes Dr. Jennifer Coates on petMD.com.

“It is true that dogs belong to the order Carnivora, but they are actually omnivores,” the veterinarian wrote. “The canine body has the ability to transform certain amino acids, the building blocks or protein, into others, meaning that dogs can get all the amino acids they need while avoiding meat.”

However, a vegan diet for dogs needs to be done “very, very carefully,” warns veterinary nutritionist Cailin Heinze on WebMD.com. “There is a lot of room for error, and these diets probably are not as appropriate as diets that contain at least some animal protein,” she said.

At the Dec. 12 meeting of the Los Angeles Board of Animal Services, commissioners said they want to study the benefits and risks of a vegan diet for dogs before making their decision. While this may strike some as one of those “Only in L.A.” ideas, I support it if it the benefits outweigh the risks and it helps improve the lives of shelter dogs. What do you think? Sound off in the Comments section below.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

274 comments

Glennis W
Glennis W24 days ago

Shame they need decent meals They will get very sick l Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W24 days ago

They need bones and meat l Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W24 days ago

So wronf feed them properly l Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W24 days ago

So stupid l Thank you for caring and sharing

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Ruth S
Ruth S25 days ago

That is silly. Dogs are carnivores!

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Naomi Dreyer
Naomi Dreyerabout a month ago

This was written last December - what has happened?

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Chrissie R
Chrissie Rabout a month ago

Unscientific, inhumane BS!

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Greta L
Greta Labout a month ago

thank you

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hELEN h
hELEN habout a month ago

An interesting proposal

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Renata B
Renata Babout a month ago

First: what actually is the difference between dogs had at home and dogs in shelters? Second: there is not ONE vegan diet. There are endless, One needs to be designed to meet the nutritional requests of the dogs. Beans foe x have a lot of proteins/ All this story of proteins for humans as well: it's an obsession. People should worry about fibre, not proteins.

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