Los Angeles City Council Considers All-Vegan Diet for Shelter Dogs

Has your dog been a good boy? Of course he has. So why not reward that terrific behavior with something he really wants. That’s right, I’m talking about a nice, juicy . . . rutabaga.

Well, if you’re a dog unfortunate enough to find yourself in a Los Angeles animal shelter, that scenario might not be too far off the mark if local vegan activists have anything to say about it.

Plants for Pups

According to a story from the Washington post published December 12th, during a Los Angeles City Council meeting on November 28th, the activists proposed a plan that would change the meals provided by the city’s six animal shelters from meat-based to plant-exclusive foods.

At the forefront of those calling for a menu change was the man who introduced the proposal, Los Angeles Board of Animal Services Commissioner Roger Wolfson. Wolfson cited studies supporting the idea that dogs on plant-based diets live longer and have fewer health problems than their meat-eating counterparts.

Of the more than 50 people who showed up to speak at the meeting, the vast majority favored Wolfson’s pro-vegan proposal. One of the supporters of Wolfson’s plan was vegan and electronic musician Moby, who said, “If we adopt this, it’s one more thing that proves to the world that Los Angeles really is the progressive capital.” (Could there possibly be a more noble reason to turn tens of thousands of years of biology on its head than that?)

Too Good to Be True?

Of course, with dogs historically being meat eaters (or, to be more specific, omnivores with diets that heavily emphasized meat), the proposal was certain to be controversial, and it did draw criticism from some of those in attendance, such as the city’s chief veterinarian, Jeremy Prupas.

Prupas’s concerns were many-fold. First, he explained that, while some dog owners may see health benefits from a vegan diet, trying to broadly apply similar diets across the 30,000-plus dogs cared for in Los Angeles shelters would be an entirely different situation—the additional complications that could arise from the new diets could place additional strain on the city’s shelters.

Regarding nutrition, Prupas argued in his report that a vegan diet would likely provide inadequate amounts of protein, calcium, and phosphorus for the dogs, in addition to providing an overabundance of fiber (which would result in increased bowel movements/diarrhea and add to the workload of facilities that may already be understaffed or underfunded). Additionally, Prupas’s report argued that the special nutritional needs of puppies or injured dogs, which make up a considerable amount of shelter populations, would not be adequately met with a vegan diet.

But, outside of issues surrounding the nutritional value of a vegan diet, Prupas’s report also raised alarms about the financial consequences that would likely result if Los Angeles shelters made the switch. He cited a price of $0.87 per pound for the kibble that the shelters currently serve, compared to the whopping $3.87 per pound price for a vegan alternative from the “only currently contracted city vendor that offers a vegan diet,” Canidae Life Stages.

However, many of those who attended the meeting as proponents of the diet change disagreed with the report, especially in regard to concerns about increased stool and diarrhea. And Wolfson also claimed that he had found two vegan-dog-food-producing companies that would match the price that the city currently pays for its kibble.

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Given the controversial nature of the proposal and the impassioned arguments for and against it, the city council decided to take two months to study the topic in a more in-depth manner before moving ahead with a decision. At that point, city council members will then decide whether to roll out the program city-wide, try the program at one shelter and measure the results, or vote against the implementation of the program altogether.

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