More than a year after Menu Foods recalled tainted pet food, a $24 million settlement was filed today in federal court. The cash fund will compensate pet guardians whose dogs and cats ate contaminated food sold by Menu Foods and others. Under the terms of the settlement:
The vast majority of the fund will go to pet owners whose pets were injured or died as a result of kidney failure, which was linked to the contaminant discovered in some of the recalled pet food.
Damages supported by documentation, such as veterinary receipts, may be paid in full. Claimants also could get $900 per claim for undocumented losses, according to the agreement filed in U.S. District Court in New Jersey.
The settlement requires that eligible claimants’ dogs or cats ate a pet food recalled between March 16, 2007, and now. Coverable expenses include veterinary bills, pet food costs, burial costs, replacement pet costs, property damage and lost wages to care for sick animals.
The fund includes only $250,000 to compensate pet owners for food purchases, because most people have already been reimbursed for recalled pet food. Another $400,000 is allocated for people who had pets screened that were found to be healthy.
The settlement will resolve more than 100 lawsuits that have already been filed. While the $24 million is a good start, the larger issue remains: how can we ensure that our pets’ food is safe? One way is through legislation, like the proposed Human and Pet Food Safety Act of 2007. Another way is to be proactive. For example, Natural Balance Pet Foods (one of the contaminated brands), now tests all of its food and consumers can go online to see testing results. It’s not a perfect system… but it’s a good start.