Marsh Dog

Since 1998 Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries has been offering a bounty on Nutria. Why? Because this invasive species is literally devouring our wetlands. The program has been successful at reducing numbers but the great majority of collected Nutria are simply discarded. After reading an article about control efforts, Hansel Harlan, a Baton Rouge attorney and dog lover, thought “what a waste.” He had studied in South America and knew Nutria were a delicacy in their native country. An expensive campaign by the state to promote Nutria for human consumption languished. “There were just too many other choices.” But Hansel mused “Why not make dog treats with them?” The meat is highly nutritious, lean, free of chemicals, artificial hormones, antibiotics and fillers found in many mass-produced pet products.”  Hansel had also become increasingly concerned about food ingredients for both himself and his dogs. “With constant food recalls and harmful foreign ingredients, I didn’t completely trust what was available. Plus, I had a dog with allergies. I began researching and experimenting.” His first treats were made using turkey. When Nutria became available he was impressed with the quality. Hansel was convinced he could develop a product that was vastly superior to common grain-based treats. “I wanted to create a minimally processed, fresh, natural product and I turned to the local ingredients I knew best.”  Hans’ sister Veni Harlan, a graphic designer and dog owner, enthusiastically came on board and began developing materials for our fledgling company “Marsh Dog.” Hansel focused on a recipe with just the right blend of Louisiana-grown ingredients. And of course we had no shortage of picky dog testers. “I’ve bought just about every dog product on the market. My dogs are picky and will leave treats that don’t interest them. The Nutria recipe really got their attention. In fact, it’s quite a rarity to find a dog that doesn’t like nutria.” In 2011, we received a prestigious grant from The Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program. It was the endorsement we needed to get serious about our idea. Our premier product “Barataria Bites” is in fact named for the fastest disappearing land in the world. In 2012, after less than a year in business, we were awarded “Conservation Business of the Year” from the Governor’s Conservation Achievement Recognition program conducted by Louisiana Wildlife Federation. We are life-long residents of south Louisiana and witnesses to its sheer beauty, unique culture, and heart-breaking vulnerability to both man-made and environmental threats. We want to be a part of the solution, if only in a small way.  It’s an entrepreneurial solution that makes environmental sense.