Dogs have a (well-earned) reputation for being carnivores. Though they've been domesticated from their meat-eating wolf ancestry and now have the capability to easily break down many veggie enzymes, humans have continued to supply their pups with all sorts of meat options. But a new movement in Los Angeles seeks to give shelter dogs a plant-based diet.
The initiative, which is backed by the likes of Moby and other prominent Hollywood movers-and-shakers, claims vegan diets for dogs have benefits beyond eliminating health issues. Proponents also say switching the dog populations of Los Angeles animal shelters, which is around 33,000 per year, to a vegan diet would eliminate many of the staggering environmental costs associated with raising meat for dog food.
The L.A. Board of Animal Services Commissioners published a proposal detailing the benefits of providing shelter dogs with a plant-based diet, but not everyone is convinced the choice is a good one.
Dr. Jeremy Prupas, chief veterinarian for the city of Los Angeles, presented a report back in November that argues against the proposition. Prupas points out that privately owned dogs can thrive in any balanced diet provided by their owner, including vegetarian, vegan, or grain-free options. But his report emphasizes that the needs of the general population of shelter dogs are different, and that the meat in their current food helps provides the energy and nutritional supplements these specific animals tend to need.
Prupas also points out that vegan diets could result in more dog waste because of the increase in fiber, and that presents hygiene challenges for shelters.
Animals shelters in Los Angeles currently serve meat-based kibble, and officials have held two hearings related to the plant-based diets proposition; the last of which, ended with the promise of conducting an independent feasibility study, according to one of the initiative's spokespeople, Lisa Karlan.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.