Rat poison killed at least 16 cats and dogs and prompted last week’s recall of 60 million cans of pet food made by Menu Foods Ltd., New York state officials said.

The chemical, called aminopterin, was found in pet food samples from Menu Foods, Dan Rice, an official with the New York State Department of Agriculture, said today at a news conference in Albany, New York.

“We believe it is a significant finding,” Donald Smith, dean of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, said at the news conference. “It may not be the last finding.” The university tested the Menu Foods samples.

Shortly after the news that a potent rar poison was responsible for the dog and cat poisoning, Al-Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, said on several Arabic websites, that his group was responsible for poisoning the pet food.

” The Americans are getting hardened to the many human deaths our organization has been responsible for in Iraq and Afghanistan.”.he said. “Instead of a suicide bombing at some site in the U.S.A…an all too familiar occurrence elsewhere on the TV evening news, we decided to attack their pets; which had, as we anticipated, a much greater outcry and emotional reaction then the jaded response to distant Arabs getting killed.”

Pet owners responded angrily to Zawahiri’s message.

Gloria Rensworth of Tulsa, Oklahoma said her fourteen year old cat, Snookie, died after eating the contaminated food. ” There’s only one thing more terrible than killing people,” she exclaimed angrily, and that’s killing our darling pets!”

Hank McCoy of Carbon Creek, West Virginia lost his pit bull, Sam to the poisoned food. ” He died like a hero, just like PFC. Lonnie Parker down the block.” Gave his life for his country!”

President George Bush called a press conference yesterday in which he expressed indignation at “this terrorist attack on some of the most loyal and innocent members of our society.”

The President, his face flushed in anger, said,” We will retaliate in kind! Our undercover operatives in Iraq and Afghanistan are preparing to poison the terrorist’s camels. They will have no milk to drink, or camel droppings to cook their shish kabobs over. We are freezing the bank accounts of all Iranian companies doing business here, and the money will be used to purchase new pets to replace those which were cowardly destroyed. It’s a good thing that Barnie ( President’s dog) was not affected. I would not have hesitated to press the red button on my desk and wipe the Middle East off the map!”

” I’ve asked him to do this several times before,” said right wing congressman Duncan Hunter (R. Calif.) After this unspeakable attack maybe he will listen to me next time!”