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A Commitment to All Pets

Michelle Maskaly//February 1, 2013//

A Commitment to All Pets

Michelle Maskaly //February 1, 2013//

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Just after Christmas, we talked with Joey Herrick, the president of Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance Pet Foods, about his passion for animals, the charities he is involved in and the advances Natural Balance are making in the pet industry.

He had just came from checking on Natural Balance’s Rose Parade float, that this year honored military dogs who risk their lives everyday to protect their handlers from harm.

We talked about everything from the float and their involvement with the Military Working Dog Monument to their spokesdog Tillman and the company’s Buy With Confidence program.

Michelle: How did Natural Balance get started?

Joey: I got the idea to start a pet food company in 1988, and went to actor Dick Van Patten, whom I had met previously, and asked if he would like to start a pet food company, and he said yes. I wanted to elevate pet nutrition. We led the way in pet nutrition, and we are the leaders in the limited ingredient diets. We’ve pioneered a lot of new formulas for pets.

I used to walk animals for animal charities on the weekend and always had two or three dogs. I loved them and wanted our goal to be to make the best possible food in the business, and not put junk in pet food. We set out to provide the best pet food possible, when others were using by-products and fillers. We never did that from the very beginning.

Michelle: Tell us about your Buy With Confidence program.

Joey: It started in 2007 when the entire industry was affected by the melamine incident. It was a horrible time for our industry. Dogs got hurt and nobody knew what it was in the beginning. There was a feeling that nobody knew what was safe anymore.I thought, “I never want this to happen again.”

We went out and spent $800,000 to build a laboratory and started testing for melamine, acid and other toxins in all our product batches. Today, our Buy With Confidence program tests every batch of our products for nine known contaminants including melamine and salmonella. It’s really expensive to do, especially for our products that are made in the east and has to be shipped to our lab [on the west coast]. But, nothing gets released until the batch goes through the lab and is confirmed safe for your pet.

If you look, every package has a date code, and the consumer can go on [our] website, select their formula, type in the date code number and get the actual laboratory results. It obviously takes a lot work, testing and data entry, but it’s something I would never, ever, ever stop doing. As long as I’m in the pet industry, that is what we will do.

Michelle: What goes into the making of your Rose Parade float?

Joey: It starts a year ahead of time. In fact, I told the builder what we are doing for 2014 today. Generally, I’m lucky enough that I always have an idea. This year is the most special float ever. I got involved with the first national monument that honors military working dogs. It has the same status as Mount Rushmore.  We were very instrumental in getting funded along with Petco and Maddie’s Fund. We decided to make our 2013 Rose Parade float a replica of the statue in flowers.

Michelle: Speaking of that, how did you get involved with the Military Working Dog Monument in Texas?

Joey: We were shooting an episode of our TV show, “Who Let the Dogs Out”  in D.C., and Tillman was skating in front of the White House when our PR people called me. They told me when we were done to go over to the Vietnam War Memorial in D.C. and meet John Burnam, he’s a Vietnam Vet and a dog handler who has been working for nine years to get a national monument for military working dogs.

He brought me a scale model of it and I loved it. I asked how it had to be financed and if he had raised any money yet. He said no. He had only talked to me for five minutes and I said, “this is what we’re going to do.” This is going to be a Natural Balance project.

Between us, Petco and Maddie’s Fund we raised the money to have it built. As soon as I heard it, I knew it had to be built. People realize dogs are an important part of the family, but they are also an important part of the military and save thousands of American’s lives. I’ve always felt they should be honored, and wanted to help make this become a reality.

To read the rest of this interview, which was continued on the Web Extra page, click here.