When Josh the dalmatian kept getting sick from eating store-bought dog treats, his family made him all-natural dog snacks.
The effort to help Josh led to a family business that has grown to a full-time job now for Josh's owner, Craig Morse, and a few part-time employees, Morse said.
Josh's All Natural Firehouse Dog Treats, which started in 1994, are hand-made and slow-baked in Largo. Although Josh died in 2000, the treats inspired by his need for treats he could safely eat are still produced in five flavors: beef, chicken, vegetable, peanut butter and lamb and rice.
New at the Largo-based business are the all-natural chicken jerky bites. Morse was approached to create them when issues with contaminated jerky treats first came up a few years ago, he said.
The demand for Mr. "B's" All-Nautral Chicken Jerky Bites continues to grow as the news media highlights incidents of contaminated dog treats, Morse said.
The jerky business is "out of control, it's beyond growing," he said.
The jerky treats are a "regular hot item" at Dog Lovers in Tarpon Springs.
"A lot of people come in asking for them," store manager Santana Titolo said. "It seems like every dog loves them."
Titolo has cats at home and says that she feeds them the treats as well. Since the jerky is all natural and includes glucosamine and chondroitin, she found that the treats appeal to more than just dogs. People are drawn to the product since it's all made in America, Titolo said.
The chicken jerky is 100 percent American-made with chicken breast from Texas, North Carolina and Colorado. The jerky is mixed with pharmaceutical-grade supplements from New Jersey, Morse said.
"I would not give my dogs anything, I would not eat myself," Morse said. He joked the treats "make me want to bark."
The jerky goes into a six-foot dehydrator, then is packaged in bags made in New York, Morse said.
The jerky treats are named for Morse's dog, 'Mr. B,' who is a pug and pekignese mix.
Treats are available locally at:
- Gone to the Dogs Boutique, St. Pete Beach
- Dog Lovers, 39934 US Highway 19, Tarpon Springs, (727) 937-1705
- Whole Foods locations