BARF diet for pets endangers species

The BARF diet is rooted in the philosophy that all things natural are good, and that science or human experience cannot improve on nature.

The Biologically Appropriate Raw Food, or Bones And Raw Food, diet, also known as the "prey model," in which owners try to feed their pets critters similar to what they’d hunt in the wild, has resulted in a surge in illegal sales of raw wild game online, Florida wildlife investigators say.

USA Today reports that in 2010, its first year, Florida Fish and Wildlife’s Internet Crimes Unit logged 177 arrests and 92 warnings for cases involving illegally buying or selling wildlife or raw game meat online, some of it for pets.

Pet owners go on Craigslist and eBay, asking where they can score a squirrel, pheasant, rabbit, goose, duck, chicken, just about any game to feed their cats and dogs. Some seek raw fish, meaty bones and organs such as hearts, livers and kidneys — everything a growing carnivore needs.

"It’s happening nationwide," said Lt. George Wilson, head of the Internet Crimes Unit. "The philosophy behind it is feeding your pet a hormone-free, naturally grazed diet.

"We’re seeing solicitations for wild ducks, anything wild."

The Internet provides a way around having to pay taxes or pay for licenses to sell wild game, investigators say.

But these Internet outlaws skirt regulations that ensure meat is sanitary and comes from game hunted in-season. They threaten to create black markets for wildlife similar to what existed for alligators 50 years ago, Wilson said.

"It’s the unlicensed people that would be trafficking them," said Jim Deason, owner of Sweetwater Plantation, a farm in Bristol, Fla., that sells live deer for breeding. "Any of the people that I know, they’re pretty above board on things like that. If there’s anybody selling game, it’s probably going to be backwoodsy folks."