Local pet owners suing over tainted pet food
posted by: Jeffrey Wolf , Web Producer
written by: Cheryl Preheim , 9NEWS Reporter created: 4/11/2007 8:42:59 PM
Last updated: 4/11/2007 9:25:13 PM
DENVER - The Whites say the last few weeks have been really hard. They lost count of the number of times they had to rush their dog, Missy, to the veterinarian.
They say she was terribly sick from eating contaminated pet food.
On Tuesday, Missy had to be put to sleep.
"It's pretty lonely at home now. Missy isn't there to cuddle with me when I get home from school," said 10-year-old Jerry White.
Now the Whites tell 9NEWS they want to be part of a class-action lawsuit that has been filed in Denver federal court.
The lead plaintiff in the suit is Emily Tompkins. Her 6-year-old cat, Grover, also died and lab results confirmed the cat's kidneys failed from eating tainted food.
Dr. Aubrey Lavizzo is the owner of The Center for Animal Wellness. He took care of Grover.
"Animals like Grover who have renal failure do suffer tremendously. There needs to be more regulation in the pet food industry so this doesn't happen again," said Lavizzo.
In a statement Tompkins said, "I can't describe the pain. I unknowingly fed him food that caused him so much pain and led to his death." She added, "I am at a loss in my home without Grover."
Although many people feel like their animals are members of the family, but by law they considered property. That's why the plaintiffs in the lawsuit cannot sue for emotional damages.
"The law doesn't allow someone to kill your dog for free but what we're talking about is how much the law charges a person for killing your dog and the answer is the monetary value of the dog," said University of Denver Law Professor Arthur Best.
The law treats a pet the same as it does car or a house.
The lawsuit accuses the companies of being negligent. It alleges they knew the food was tainted long before alerting the public. If that is proven, a lot more money may be at stake.
Attorney Jennifer Thomaidis filed the lawsuit.
"We are going after punitive damages. We are hoping to see changes from this case that will be brought about and recover some of the emotional loss throughout the country," she said.
Thomaidis added, "Manufacturers spent millions of dollars to encourage people to buy brands of food. The result was the loss of pets that feel much like the loss of a family member."
There are 115,000 pet food companies in the United States. Some of them subscribe to voluntary regulations. Lavizzo says not enough of them submit to monitoring and guidelines and he hopes the government will step in and impose mandatory regulations.
In the meantime, Lavizzo says it is buyer beware.
"You have no way of telling what really goes into the food despite what is on the label. You should rely on your vet to recommend the best foods for animals," he said.
A challenge in this lawsuit will be proving how an animal died. Lawyers are asking pet owners to collect potential evidence:
-Have your vet take a tissue sample from your pet that can be sent to a laboratory.
-Save all your paperwork from your visits to the vet.
-Save the pet food that was recalled.
People who are interested in being part of the class-action lawsuit should contact Thomaidis at her Web site.
For a complete list of the recalled pet foods, you can visit http://menufoods.com/recall/.