Tri-City woman eating pet food to prove its nutrition

Pet shop owner to appear on 'Today' TV show Thursday

Dori O'Neal, Tri-City HeraldJuly 2, 2014 

Hunter Eats Pet Food

Dorothy Hunter, co-owner of Paw's Natural Pet Emporium, shares a chicken jerky dog treat Wednesday morning with Cami, her three-year old teacup shih tzu, in the Richland store. Hunter has eaten most all of the types of food and treats for dogs, cats and birds that she sells in her two local stores. She's currently spending a month, starting on June 19, eating different pet foods to prove how nutritious they are.

BOB BRAWDY — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

A Richland pet store owner has caught the attention of national media with her plan to eat nothing but pet food for 30 days.

Dorothy Hunter, the owner of Paw's Natural Pet Emporium, with stores in Richland and Kennewick, decided to prove that pets can eat foods as healthy and delicious as human foods by consuming dog, cat and bird food each day for 30 days. She started her campaign June 19.

"You would be surprised how tasty dog and cat food can be when it's made right," she said. "You really are what you eat and it's the same for your pets. I decided to eat this food for a month just to prove how good it tastes, as well as showcase its nutrition."

Her decision caught the attention of producers with NBC's Today show, which will feature Hunter in a segment that airs at 7 a.m. today on the West Coast.

Hunter's pet food diet campaign is similiar to a strategy employed four years ago by the executive director of the Washington Potato Commission.

Chris Voigt ate 20 potatoes a day for 60 days. The potato diet was designed to sway the government to reinstate the white potato on the list of approved foods that can be obtained from the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC. The program is designed to help poor mothers feed their children a more nutritious diet.

Hunter's stores carry pet food that is free of corn, wheat, soy, all byproducts, fillers, corn gluten, BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin and propylene glycol.

Some of the dog and cat food brands she carries come from as far away as Italy. And, it doesn't matter whether it's dry kibble, canned food or treats -- everything she carries in the store is carefully selected for its nutritional value, said Hunter, the owner of three dogs -- a standard and two teacup Shih Tzus.

"You won't find empty food in this store," she said. "There are no fillers, or animal (byproducts) or preservatives. We also do our best to make sure we do not carry any edible foods from China or products whose ingredients came from China."

And Hunter was willing to put her stomach on the line to prove her point.

Her favorites are the Tiki canned cat food that's made with succulent chicken, straight from the can, Hunter said.

"In the dry kibble, I really like the Italian brand and the Natural Balance," she said. "I know people think this is crazy, but I can't stress enough how important it is to read labels and see what's in the food you eat -- whether it's pet food or human food. If this month of eating pet food enlightens people to the importance of that, then I'll be happy."

In the meantime, she'll continue to eat her favorite treats from the store -- dehydrated green beans.

Her store opened out six years ago as a small storefront, then expanded to 8,000 square feet a couple of years later. And Hunter says another expansion is about to get under way that will add another 12,000 square feet to the Richland store.

"When the expansion is done, hopefully by September, we'll be the largest independent pet store in the state," she said.

Amanda Kempf of Richland has worked for Hunter for about nine months and couldn't be happier working for Hunter. She, too, likes many of the hundreds of dog snacks the store sells packaged or in bulk.

"My kids love the dog treats as well, and I don't mind them eating those because they are nutritious," Kempf said.

The children also make no secret of their pet-food noshing habits.

"They even told their teachers, who then asked me if it was true," Kempf added with a laugh. "Everything is labeled here so you know what you're buying, and you're buying nutrition."

Nutrition is as important for your pet as it is for yourself, Hunter said.

"If I can't eat it, I won't sell it because animals are important to me," she said.

The Richland store is at 1420 Jadwin Ave. The Kennewick store is at 6713 W. Clearwater Ave. Both stores are open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day. They will close at 4 p.m. July 4.

Online at www.pawsnaturalpetemporium.com and on Facebook.

-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @dorioneal

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