Antlers, other natural products are popular for pets- and criminals

By on March 29, 2018

A while back, I attended the Grand Opening of Long Dog Fat Cat’s second store in Loveland (90th and Center in Omaha). I snapped photos of dog food bags heaped everywhere, the new bakery case, and one man buying up the store’s entire inventory of antler chews. To that point, chews of this sort, including “bull pizzles” and other natural items, were unknown to me. Now, those bully sticks and deer antler chews are staple item seen throughout our city’s selection of natural pet stores.

Some of these products, like cow tails and moose antler shards, are quite spendy. Deer antlers are more affordable. All of these natural items are contributors to the nearly $70 billion pet supply industry and all are trending upward yearly.

And with the increase in popularity, price, and demand of these products is an increase of criminals snatching them up. Not from stores so much, but from places out in the world where people collect and store antlers and the like. They have opened up what this NPR article article says is a black market for natural pet products.

Why have these products become so popular? Like any other natural product, the organic nature is desirable to pet owners looking to serve animals only the best in premium food and treats. Organic products are also more responsible consumer choices. The antler chews, for example, are good for a dog’s teeth, contain many essential minerals, and are found throughout nature without any intrusion on animals.

And if a criminal can snatch up someone’s pile of antlers and sell them for a few bucks each, we can assume (and know) that’s happening. Elk, moose, and caribou antlers, which can be found relatively easily in wild places like Alaska, are collected and sold outside of stores for big bucks. At $10-$30 a pop, there’s some money to be made in finding and selling “organically-shed” antlers.

One worry is that the popularity of such products is growing enough to where antlers that aren’t organically-shed (naturally fallen off) will be snatched through means of poaching, like ivory from various animals in Africa and Asia. Another is that the demand will grow as the supply shrinks, driving up prices.

It’s another example of exploitation of a good-natured idea by folks with less than good nature in them.

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