Tuffy’s Pet Foods says it will “strongly defend” itself from a class-action lawsuit from a California woman accusing the company of misleading consumers through deceptive marketing.

The suit, filed earlier in August in Ramsey County Court, claims Tuffy’s sold its NutriSource dog food brand as a “super premium” product, despite knowing it was lacking a nutrient the company knew to be vital to a dog’s diet.

Tuffy’s Vice President of Sales Chase Rasmussen said the Perham-based company is aware of the claim.

“Due to pending legal action we cannot comment at this time,” Rasmussen told the Focus. “We take great pride in our products and brands, and we will strongly defend ourselves."

The case centers around the natural occurring nutrient taurine, which is often found in animal protein.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

Taurine deficiency has been proven for decades to cause a condition called canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), according to court documents.

The suit states while Tuffy’s has long been aware of the importance of taurine, “they inexplicably failed to disclose to consumers that their ultra-expensive NutriSource dog food -- supposedly guaranteed to lead to pet health -- was not fortified with this nutrient.”

The lawsuit’s plaintiff, Claudette Granucci, bought NutriSource for her dog, Marley, starting in 2010, until his death from a major cardiac event on Dec. 18, 2017.

According to court documents, had Granucci known Tuffy’s was concealing life-threatening nutritional information -- information that was known to Tuffy’s and others in the industry -- she never would have bought NutriSource dog food.

In 2010, the Pet Food Institute, which Tuffy’s is a member of, petitioned the USDA to include taurine in organic pet food production, stating “low levels of taurine have been associated with retinal degeneration, growth retardation and cardiomyopathy,” according to court documents.

NutriSource wasn’t fortified with taurine until pressure from consumers and regulatory agencies prompted a change in 2018, according to court documents.

In a video message on July 25, 2018, KLN Family Brands President Charlie Nelson says the company recently began adding taurine to its dog food formula in order to get ahead of concerns regarding DCM. KLN owns the Tuffy’s brand.

Caleb Marker, an attorney representing Granucci, said the suit is seeking a full refund for NutriSource dog food purchases.