Hill’s prescription dog food faces class action lawsuit
A United States District Court judge granted a group of pet owners’ complaint against Hill’s Pet Nutrition, elevating the case to a class action lawsuit on behalf of other pet owners in Illinois. The plaintiffs’ allegations centered around Hill’s requirement that pet owners obtain a prescription from a veterinarian to purchase certain pet food formulations. This requirement was enforced by PetSmart through the use of a MedCard. The plaintiffs asserted that Hill’s prescription diet was not legally obligated to be sold with a prescription, which allegedly rendered the representations made by Hill’s as false. The plaintiff’s original filing also named PetSmart, but the judge denied this part of the complaint.
The lawsuit also claims that defendants engaged in deceptive practices in the manufacturing, distribution, marketing and sale of prescription diet pet food at above-market prices. They allege that prescription diet pet food lacks substantial differences from non-prescription pet food and does not contain medically necessary ingredients that justify its price premium. The plaintiffs noted that Hill’s prescription pet foods did not contain a drug, medicine or other ingredient that was not also found in non-prescription pet food.
The plaintiffs pointed to evidence that Hill’s markets its prescription formulations as therapeutic products intended for use in disease treatment. The plaintiff’s stated that Hill’s markets these products to veterinarians through its product guides, clinical evidence reports, veterinary hotline and other marketing materials. This marketing allegedly results in veterinarians recommending Hill’s products for their clients.
Additionally, the plaintiffs argued that Hill’s prescription diet pet food was marketed without proper U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval as a new animal drug and without being registered as a drug with the FDA, potentially rendering it adulterated and misbranded under federal law.
Plaintiffs’ experiences with prescription pet foods
Plaintiffs Vanzant and Nevius detailed their experiences with Hill’s Prescription Pet Food products in court documents. Holly Vanzant purchased Hill’s prescription diet c/d Multicare Feline Bladder Health cat food in 2013 for her cat, Tarik, following emergency surgery for bladder stones. A veterinarian prescribed the food, and Vanzant transferred the prescription to Banfield Pet Hospital for a pet prescription card. She continued buying it at PetSmart for three years, showing the prescription card each time.
Nevius bought Hill’s i/d Digestive Care dry dog food in 2019 for her dog, Moose, under a veterinarian’s prescription. Believing it contained medicine and was controlled like prescription drugs, she followed her vet’s guidance. In 2020, Moose’s vet prescribed Hill’s PD i/d Digestive Care wet food, which Nevius also purchased. Nevius testified that knew after looking at the label and ingredient list that there was no medication in the prescription diet pet food she purchased.
Hill’s contended that Nevius’ testimony otherwise does not support her theory of deception. Specifically, Hill’s pointed out that Nevius did not review the packaging or label before purchasing its product and contends that if she had, she would have seen from the ingredient list that the prescription diet did not contain medicine. However, the judge didn’t consider this to have undermined Nevius’ case.
Both plaintiffs claim their purchases were influenced by deceptive practices, notably the prescription requirement, alleging that they wouldn’t have bought these products if Hill’s hadn’t marketed and controlled the formulations as prescription diets.