SAN DIEGO – Petco will stop sales of dog and cat treats made in China by the end of 2014, the company announced May 20. Petco sells treats at more than 1,300 stores in the United States and The move comes in response to reports from the Food and Drug Administration that jerky treats manufactured in China had caused pet deaths and illnesses.

The company said in a statement that the final stage of the transition will begin in September and should be complete by the end of the year. The company said removing China-made pet treats from its inventory has been a multi-year process in which Petco has been working with vendors and suppliers to offer alternatives to treats made in China.

“We know some pet parents are wary of dog and cat treats made in China, especially Chicken Jerky products, and we’ve heard their concerns,” said Jim Myers, Petco CEO. “As a leader in the industry and the trusted partner for our pet parents, we’re eager to make this transition and to expand our assortment of safe and healthy treats, the majority of which are made right here in the US. Very simply, we feel this decision is in the best interest of the pets we all love and, ultimately, for our business.”

Since 2007, FDA has received reports of pet treat-related illnesses involving 3,600 dogs and 10 cats. Approximately 580 of those pets have died. The agency has received an additional 1,800 case reports since Oct. 22, 2013.

"The breakdown of symptoms associated with the cases is similar to that of earlier reports: approximately 60 percent of the cases report gastrointestinal/liver disease, 30 percent kidney or urinary disease, with the remaining 10 percent of complaints including various other signs such as neurologic, dermatologic, and immunologic symptoms," FDA reported on the agency's website. "About 15 percent of the kidney or urinary cases also tested positive for Fanconi syndrome, a rare kidney disease that has been associated with this investigation."

Despite extensive tests of the products and assistance from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine has failed to pinpoint the exact cause of the illnesses.

“We’ve been following the FDA warnings and related customer concerns closely, and we’ve been actively reducing our China-made assortment and expanding our American-made offerings for several years now,” Myers added. “We know the FDA hasn’t yet identified a direct cause for the reported illnesses, but we decided the uncertainty of the situation outweighs the lack of actual proof. It has taken some time and careful thought to get to this point, but we’re proud to make the change and we believe our customers will be pleased with it as well.”