Pet Fooled

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Pet Fooled
PET FOOLED film logo.png
Directed byKohl Harrington
Produced byMichael Fossat
Music byFernando Arroyo Lascurain
CinematographyJosh Gibson
Edited byShannon Schnittker
Distributed byGravitas Ventures
Release date
  • 2 October 2016 (2016-10-02) (Catalina Film Festival)
  • 10 January 2017 (2017-01-10) (VOD release)
Running time
70 minutes

Pet Fooled (stylized PET FOOLED) is a 2016 American independent documentary film exploring the pet food industry with interviews from veterinarians and pet owners whose pets died, they allege, due to commercial packaged pet food. After premiering at the Catalina Film Festival on 2 October 2016, the film had an "on demand theatrical run" via Gathr,[1][2] after which it became available on VOD platforms on 10 January 2017. The film is currently available to Netflix subscribers, as a digital download on iTunes or as a physical DVD via Amazon. The film, produced by Myla Films and directed/narrated by Kohl Harrington, was distributed by Gravitas Ventures.


Dog food for sale at a New Hampshire supermarket.

The film begins with, and shows at points throughout, montages of pet food labels from different brands, such as Milk-Bone and Meow Mix. The documentary promotes raw feeding, and criticizes all kibble brands, even ones considered "organic" or "natural". The film also criticizes the fact that pet food manufacturers use the same factories for different brands, thereby potentially misleading consumers that different companies were behind the production of the pet food.

According to the documentary, as of 2013, there were only five pet food manufacturers in the United States: Mars Corporation (manufacturer of Royal Canin, Whiskas, and Pedigree, among others), Nestlé Purina PetCare, Procter & Gamble, Hill's Pet Nutrition (manufacturer of the Science Diet), and The J. M. Smucker Company (formerly Big Heart Pet Brands, manufacturer of Meow Mix and Milk-Bone, among others). In 2014, however, Mars Corporation purchased Procter & Gamble's pet food brands (IAMS, Eukanuba and Natura) from the company, meaning that today there are only four manufacturers.[3]

The documentary showed interviews with several veterinarians who advocate raw feeding, such as Dr. Karen Shaw Becker and Dr. Barbara Royal, and it recounted previous pet food scares, such as the 2007 pet food recalls and the 2013 chicken jerky recall.

Some veterinary professionals interviewed in the film link modern ailments found in pets, such as obesity and allergies, to diet, and claim that changing that diet would eliminate those problems. Among those personally criticized are Dr. Melody Raasch, who has advocated corn as a healthful dog food in the past for IAMS.

Other veterinarians disagreed, such as Dr. Annie Harvilicz, who in her interview said that she believed that bacteria and other pathogens in uncooked foods present a risk to pets. According to Dr. Becker, however, dogs frequently practice coprophagia with no ill effects, and dogs are evolutionarily equipped to be able to process any pathogens in raw food.

The film also explains and criticizes the regulatory framework for pet food in the United States. Pet food and animal feed are not differentiated in the law, which means pets and livestock are in many cases legally the same. If a pet dies due to poisonous food, American courts only return judgments which give plaintiffs minimal amounts of money in light of how much they care for and pay for their pets.[4] In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates pet food labels, but the film criticizes the definitions used as misleading. For example, if a pet food has "dinner" on the label, it only need contain 25% meat; if the word "with" is used, as in "with beef", a pet food could be 97% grain or corn with only mandatory 3% beef. If the word "flavor" is used, as in "salmon flavor", the pet food need not contain any salmon at all, the only requirement is that there is enough of the ingredient "to be detected". Only foods specifically labeled with the words "cat food" and "dog food" need contain 95% or more meat.[5]


Reception to the film was mostly positive; however, it did not have a large theater run and many major publications did not review it. Among users of the site, the film has a 7.6 rating on IMDb as of August 2017.[6] CBS's Chicago affiliate responded positively to the documentary, and included tips on making the switch to raw feeding and recipes from Dr. Barbara Royal.[7] The Daily Journal praised the film, describing it as "breaking down the facade" of the pet food industry.[8] Hammer To Nail called the film a "powerful" documentary that "every pet owner needs to see".[9] The Holmes County Times-Advertiser praised the film, writing "[Pet Fooled exposes] a poorly regulated industry driven more by profits and less by the wellbeing of animals."[10]

Lindsay Beaton, writing for Pet Food Industry, a trade publication funded by the pet food industry, responded negatively to the film, claiming that while labels "can be...confusing and overwhelming", "the industry knows this and has been discussing the issue at great length for some time now". She also stated that the documentary did a poor job of "discussing any of the significant pet food safety changes that have come from those recalls in the decade since [the 2007 pet food recalls.]"[11]


  1. ^ "Theatrical On Demand® - Pet Fooled". Gathr. Retrieved 2017-08-23.
  2. ^ Havens, Sara (2017-01-08). "'Pet Fooled' doc exposes pet food industry; debuts in Louisville with benefit for The Arrow Fund". Insider Louisville. Retrieved 2017-08-23.
  3. ^ "Mars buys P&G's pet food brands in $2.9bn deal". Retrieved 2017-08-18.
  4. ^ Winograd, Nathan J.; Thomas, Shawn; Stanley, Valerie J.; Favre, David S.; Loring, Murray (1 February 2001). "Damages for Death or Injury of an Animal - Animal Legal Defense Fund". Animal Legal Defense Fund. Retrieved 18 August 2017. Unfortunately, while the law generally allows compensation for many different types of injuries, courts have not unanimously extended those remedies to cases where animal companions have been injured or killed. Traditionally, many courts have restricted the measure for loss of an animal to the animal’s market value. This has been determined by looking at the animal’s “commercial” qualities such as breed, pedigree, service, particular traits and profitability. Under this approach, courts will award the amount of money necessary to replace the pet in the market place and may also award consequential damages to the extent that they are reasonable. The myopia of courts in this regard results from the view that the law regards animals as mere “property,” no different than if the perpetrator injured someone’s car or other piece of personal property.
  5. ^ "Resources for You - Pet Food Labels - General". FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine. 16 February 2016. Retrieved 18 August 2017.
  6. ^ "Pet Fooled (2016)". IMDb. Retrieved 18 August 2017.
  7. ^ Tellez, Roseanne (10 January 2017). "New Documentary Slams Popular Pet Food Brands". CBS Chicago. Retrieved 18 August 2017.
  8. ^ Powell, Pam (20 January 2017). "Bourbonnais vet speaks out against big brand pet food". The Daily Journal. Retrieved 2017-08-23.
  9. ^ Llewellyn Reed, Christopher (10 January 2017). "PET FOOLED – Hammer to Nail". Hammer To Nail. Retrieved 18 August 2017.
  10. ^ Rich, Jennifer (20 December 2016). "Vernon native rolls out pet food documentary". Washington County News/Holmes County Times. Retrieved 2017-08-23.
  11. ^ Beaton, Lindsay (7 May 2017). "What 'Pet Fooled' gets right about consumer confusion". Pet Food Industry. Retrieved 18 August 2017.

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