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Pet food retailer PetSmart says it will stop selling pet treats from China by early next year

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NEW YORK, N.Y. - PetSmart said it will join rival Petco and stop selling dog and cat treats made in China because of ongoing fears that the treats are making pets sick.

Investigators at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration haven't been able to prove that treats made in China are making pets ill. But since 2007, the agency has received more than 4,800 complaints of pet illnesses and more than 1,000 reports of dog deaths after eating Chinese-made chicken, duck or sweet potato jerky treats.

PetSmart Inc., which runs more than 1,300 stores, plans to have the treats off of its shelves by March 2015.

Spokeswoman Michelle Friedman said Wednesday that the "vast majority" of treats sold in its stores are not made in China. She said some customers like the treats that are made in China and the company is looking to replace them with something similar.

Asked why the products couldn't be taken off the shelves sooner, she said "We don't want to leave pet parents high and dry."

Rival Petco is removing them sooner. It said Tuesday that it plans to stop selling them from its 1,300 stores by the end of this year. It began cutting down on the amount of Chinese-made treats it sold three years ago.

"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," said Petco CEO Jim Myers.

In an update to its investigation last week, the FDA said it found that antiviral drug amantadine in some samples of imported chicken jerky treats sold a year or more ago, but doesn't think it caused the illnesses. The FDA said it will continue to investigate.

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