Bereaved owners may receive millions in poison pet-food settlement

Last Updated: Tuesday, October 14, 2008 | 3:58 PM ET

The Associated Press


Source of Article:

Thousands of Canadian and U.S. pet owners whose dogs and cats died last year after eating pet food contaminated by a Chinese ingredient may be close to receiving a $32-million US settlement.

A federal judge in Camden, N.J., was to hear oral arguments on the final settlement proposal Tuesday. The court also will consider any filed objections.

But some pet owners, including Donna Elliott of Fries, Va., are upset that the agreement does not include any money for their pain and suffering as a result of health problems with their pets.

"How do you answer the statement on the claim form, 'What was the value of your pet?' My companion was everything in the world to me," said Fries, who sent U.S. District Judge Noel Hillman a picture of her late boxer, Abby.

In addition to the $8 million they had already agreed to pay owners of pets who became ill from the tainted food, the group of pet-food companies involved in the case proposed contributing another $24 million for the settlement.

It allows pet owners to apply for expenses associated with deaths and illnesses, including the costs of veterinarians, time missed from work to care for sick animals, replacement pets, burial expenses and even property damaged because animals became ill.

Under the terms of the deal, even those who did not keep receipts for either the pet food or the costs of the pets' illness and death could receive up to $900 per animal.

Any money remaining after all plaintiffs are paid would go to animal-welfare charities.

Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found many pet foods contained melamine, a chemical used to make plastics. The melamine was traced to contaminated wheat gluten imported from China.

In March 2007, the companies that made or sold the pet food agreed to settle lawsuits with pet owners. In April, lawyers representing plaintiffs and dozens of companies announced they had struck a deal for pet owners in the United States and Canada.

As of Sept. 30, more than 9,500 people in the United States and Canada had made claims, while just over 100 people had preserved their rights to sue separately. Only 28 had filed objections to the settlement.

The companies involved in the case include Menu Foods Income Fund of Streetsville, Ont., which makes dog and cat food under about 90 brand names.

with files from the Associated Press



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