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Posted: July 15th, 2016 | Feature, Hillcrest, Pets, Top Story | No Comments

By Margie M. Palmer

Vegan dog treats good enough for humans

Shaded Trails isn’t your average dog treat company.

Not only does the Hillcrest-based pet snacks provider specialize in all natural, 100 percent vegan dog treats, they’ve also committed to donating 5 percent of their website orders to their Helping Paws Program, which will help support no-kill animal shelters throughout the U.S.

The company was founded about two years ago, Shaded Trails founder and CEO J.R. Starlin said, adding that his “vegan dog treat adventure” began when he got his English bulldog puppy, Luna. His little girl had stomach issues, he said, which prompted him to begin making his own, all-natural dog treats.

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A Hillcrest company sells vegan treats for dogs. (Courtesy of Shaded Trails)

“If you take a look at what they sell in the stores, it’s all filled with meat, fillers, artificial flavors and a bunch of stuff you can’t pronounce — so we started making treats for her. Then we started giving them to our friends. It really grew from there.”

Starlin felt that since dogs are already getting so much meat, lamb, chicken and beef in their regular food, that if he was going to treat her, “a treat should be a treat, not more meat.”

He began to wonder; if humans can make conscious choices of the foods they eat on a daily basis, why do they have such limited choices when it comes to what they feed their dogs?

“There aren’t too many vegan options out there. We are trying to lead the way in that,” he said.

Suffice to say, the concept has been very well-received.

noahweb“It’s amazing how many events we do and how much positive feedback we get, even from people who aren’t vegan. We always tell them we’re simply here to give you a choice by offering healthy dog treats. The one treat we have with the most ingredients, only has eight ingredients in it,” Starlin said. “It’s very minimal and that’s what people love. People can eat them themselves if they want; that’s how good they are.”

The company also feels strongly about giving back.

Being a vegan and animal-equality centric company, Shaded Trails has structured a percentage of its sales to help its Helping Paws Program, which was designed to benefit rescue and animal shelters in need.

Five percent of their sales will be donated to one no-kill animal shelter per quarter, he said. Each facility must be a registered nonprofit, no-kill animal shelter located within the U.S.

Monies donated will be earmarked for animal rescue, supporting medical treatment, and the sheltering of animals that are in need of love and care.

Helping Paws is still in its infancy, he said, although the program plans to make its first donation later this year. Their first beneficiary will be the Hooves and Paws Animal Rescue, which is located in Littlerock, California.

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 8.27.48 AMShaded Trails is also open to taking recommendations from their clients. There is a contact form on their website, Starlin said, noting that anyone can suggest a no-kill shelter that could benefit from a Helping Paws donation.

“The Helping Paws Program is set up to enable Shaded Trails to take our compassion for animals to the next level,” he said. “The program enables us to be a huge part in rescuing and caring for all kinds of animals in need.”

—Margie M. Palmer is a San Diego-based freelance writer who has been racking up bylines in a myriad of news publications for the past 10 years. You can reach her at

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