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Biotech Firm Raises $16M for Vegan Dog Food

The food is made from an ‘eco-friendly and renewably sourced fungi.’

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BERKELEY, CA – Wild Earth Inc., a biotech startup company focused on pet food, has closed on $16 million funding.

The company announced this week that it had closed its Series A with an investment of $11 million led by VegInvest, a venture capital firm supporting early-stage companies striving to replace the use of animals in the food system and other industries. This is VegInvest’s second investment in Wild Earth.

Other current investors include Mark Cuban’s Radical Investments, Felicis Ventures, Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund and Mars Petcare, bringing total funding to $16 million.

The investment is being used to accelerate Wild Earth’s development of its no-meat food for dogs made from an eco-friendly and renewably sourced fungi, a “complete protein containing all ten essential amino acids,” according to a press release. The company expects the dry kibble formula to be available in the second half of 2019.

Wild Earth also announced it has moved into its new headquarters in Southwest Berkeley at Outermost House, significantly expanding its R&D and business facilities. Outermost House, located in a historic space of a former chocolate factory, was envisioned by VegInvest in 2017 as a global innovation hub for vegan food tech companies.

“Wild Earth and VegInvest share a foundation of values and innovation in this effort to achieve a food system that works better for people, the planet, and animals,” said Wild Earth CEO Ryan Bethencourt. “Their experience helping future-of-food companies reach the market will absolutely increase our timeline for commercial availability of our dog food with fungi protein.”

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Amy Trakinski, managing director of VegInvest, who joins Wild Earth’s board of directors, said,
“Given the shocking amount of animal farming required for pet food, and the environmental strain caused by feeding companion animals, Wild Earth represents an important component of a more sustainable and humane food system. We’re investing in Wild Earth not only to impact this market but because Ryan and his team can provide valuable leadership to other companies in the plant-based innovation space.”

New York-based VegInvest provides early-stage capital and guidance to companies in industries like vegan food products and food technology, alternatives to animal testing, and restaurant chains. By replacing the use of animals, VegInvest sees financial opportunities as well as more sustainable and scalable solutions. Current investments include JUST and Veggie Grill.

Wild Earth also welcomed global investors in its funding round. Shanghai-based Bits x Bites is China’s first future-of-food fund. VECTR is a private equity group based in Hong Kong. Berlin-based P.O.V. is one of Germany’s leading food funds.

Wild Earth said its fungi-based products require fewer resources than farming animals to produce the same nutritional value. In addition to a complete protein without animal ingredients, the veterinarian-developed formula offers omega fatty acids, digestion-boosting enzymes and prebiotics to support gastrointestinal microbiomes. Since 25-30 percent of meat’s environmental impact in the U.S. is attributed to pet food, Wild Earth believes its Koji protein “is necessary if we hope to sustainably feed more than a billion pets expected by 2050.”

Wild Earth treats are available online at WildEarth.com, Amazon.com, PupJoy.com, select brick-and-mortar retail stores, and wholesale to pet food retailers.

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$20M Pet Nutrition Facility to Focus on Needs of Small Dogs

It will be home to 80 small dogs under 12 pounds.

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TOPEKA, KS — Hill’s Pet Nutrition held a groundbreaking ceremony for a $20 million, 25,000-square-foot nutrition facility focused on the needs of small dogs, along with a center developed for veterinarian and other pet caregiver engagement.

“Hill’s is excited to announce the expansion of our world-renowned pet nutrition center to focus on the special needs of small dogs and also to enhance our involvement with those who care for pets through the new engagement center,” said Hill’s President Jesper Nordengaard. “We are always investing in research and development to serve the nutritional needs of pets as well as learning from veterinarians, customers and caregivers through their experiences.”

The new Small Paws center will be home to 80 small dogs under 12 pounds who will benefit from nutrition developed to their unique needs. The center will be devoted to exceptional veterinary care and offer indoor and outdoor enrichment activities that the dogs can choose during the day, including an outdoor Bark Park. The engagement center will have dedicated space to host educational seminars and continuing education programs for veterinary students and professionals.

“All around the world, there’s a steady increase in the popularity of small dogs. Our investment in this specialized facility will help us develop food with the taste and aesthetics that small dogs prefer and that works best with their distinctive behaviors and unique physiology,” said Dave Baloga, vice president, science and technology, for Hill’s. “The Small Paws center will allow us to better understand their needs and discover new ways to help them lead happy, healthy lives.”

Today, more than half of dogs in the U.S. are small and miniature, and the percentage is growing, notes Hill’s, which is part of Colgate-Palmolive Co. These small dogs have distinct needs compared to their larger cousins. For example, small stomachs mean they graze throughout the day, rather than eat one or two big meals like larger dogs. And because of their higher mass-specific metabolism, pound for pound, small dogs eat more than big dogs.

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State Makes It a Crime to Have a Fake Service Animal

Violators face fines and community service.

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Alabama is instituting criminal penalties for anyone who misrepresents a pet as a service animal.

The legislation takes effect Sept. 1. It makes such representation a Class C misdemeanor that leads to a $100 fine and 100 hours of community service, Al.com reports.

Under Alabama law, only dogs and miniature horses can qualify as service animals. They have to be trained specifically to help people with disabilities — emotional support animals do not count.

The law allows for signs to be posted in public places with this wording: “Service animals are welcome. It is illegal for a person to misrepresent an animal in that person’s possession as a service animal.”

According to Al.com, Alabama is one of 25 states with laws related to misrepresentation of service animals.

Read more at Al.com

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Meet the 1 Millionth Dog to Pass AKC’s ‘Canine Good Citizen’ Test

The program stresses responsible pet ownership for owners and good manners for dogs.

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The American Kennel Club, the world’s largest purebred dog registry and leading advocate for dogs, is celebrating 1 million dogs passing the AKC Canine Good Citizen Test.

The millionth dog to pass the test was a Bernese mountain dog named Fiona who is owned by Nora Pavone from Brooklyn, NY. Fiona attended instructor Kate Naito’s CGC classes at Brooklyn’s Doggie Academy as the initial step toward her future role as a grief therapy dog in nursing homes.

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“We are very proud of Fiona and the other hundreds of thousands of dogs that have passed the CGC test,” said Mary Burch, director of the Canine Good Citizen Program. “Many of these dogs go on for additional training to make a difference in the lives of others.”

Started in 1989, AKC’s Canine Good Citizen Program is a two-part program that stresses responsible pet ownership for owners and good manners for dogs. The 10-step test consists of basic commands and actions like accepting a friendly stranger, sitting, staying, coming when called, walking through a crowd, and behaving politely around other dogs, among others. All dogs who pass the test may receive a certificate from the AKC.

“A million CGC dogs is an amazing milestone. The program has done so much good, from helping dog owners teach their pet good manners to rehabilitating dogs that have had behavioral issues,” said Doug Ljungren, executive vice president of AKC Sports & Events. “CGC instructors can be justifiably proud of the great work they have done for dogs and their owners.”

The Canine Good Citizen Program has been adopted and utilized for many activities that require basic good citizen behavior. CGC training and titles are used as a prerequisite by therapy dog groups. Many service dog organizations start their dogs with CGC training, and shelter organizations are utilizing the “CGC Ready” program to demonstrate that their rescue dogs are good citizens.

Several dog daycare facilities train dogs for the test and 4-H clubs around the country have been using CGC as a beginning dog training program. Other countries (including Korea, India, England, Australia, Japan, Hungary, Denmark, Sweden, Canada and Finland) have developed CGC programs based on the AKC’s Program.

Legislative Resolutions endorsing the CGC program as a way of teaching responsible dog ownership and canine good manners have been passed in 48 states, and police and animal control agencies use the CGC program for dealing with dog problems in communities. In addition, some homeowner’s insurance companies encourage CGC testing, and an increasing number of apartments, condos and businesses require that resident dogs pass the CGC test.

More information about the AKC Canine Good Citizen Program can be found at: https://www.akc.org/products-services/training-programs/canine-good-citizen/

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