Petco

Petco said it would stop selling dog and cat treats made in China. Above, a dog gets a treat at a Los Angeles pet store in 2010. (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times / November 18, 2010)

Petco Animal Supplies Inc. said Tuesday it would end the sale of dog and cat treats made in China in a move the company said would protect the "well-being of pets."

Rival pet retailer PetSmart Inc. quickly followed and said it would end sales of China-made pet treats too. 

Pet owners have complained for years that treats imported from China, in particular chicken jerky, have caused illnesses that officials have been unable to pinpoint. Nonetheless, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued periodic warnings since 2007.

“We’ve been following the FDA warnings and related customer concerns closely, and we’ve been actively reducing our China-made assortment and expanding our American-made offerings for several years now,” said Jim Myers, Petco's chief executive.

“As a leader in the industry and the trusted partner for our pet parents, we’re eager to make this transition and to expand our assortment of safe and healthy treats," Myers said. "Very simply, we feel this decision is in the best interest of the pets we all love and, ultimately, for our business.”

Petco, based in San Diego, said it expects all China-made treats will be removed from its more than 1,300 stores nationwide by year's end. 

PetSmart Inc. soon followed, saying it would also end sales of China-made pet treats. 

"PetSmart will no longer sell dog and cat treats manufactured in China," Erin Gray, a PetSmart spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement. "This is something we’ve been working toward for some time, and feel it’s the right thing to do for pets and our customers."

As of May 1, the FDA said it has received about 4,800 reports of pet illnesses linked to treats made in China, most of them for dogs. The majority of the cases involve gastrointestinal illnesses and a third involve kidney failures. 

The FDA said in its most recent consumer advisory that dogs sickened have shown decreased appetite and activity, vomiting and diarrhea. Most dogs appeared to recover, but some owners have reported deaths, the agency said.