Toxic Feed Blamed for Deaths of Show Horses

     FRESNO, Calif. (CN) — Toxic horse feed left more than 50 show horses either dead or severely sickened in California’s Central Valley, their owners claim in court.
     The owners of 51 “high-quality and valuable show horses” filed a lawsuit against Western Milling LLC in Fresno County Superior Court for allegedly selling horse feed containing monensin, a common food additive for beef and dairy cattle that is toxic and lethal to horses.
     “The main impact of monensin poisoning on horses is muscle damage, especially to the heart. In some cases of monensin poisoning, horses die very quickly with acute, congestive heart failure, while other horses may die of heart failure in a few days or even weeks later,” lead plaintiff Kathryn Flanigan says in the 20-page complaint.
     Other severe reactions include colic, inability to stand, kidney failure and respiratory distress, she says.
     “There is no antidote to monensin poisoning. Even if a horse appears to ‘get better,’ the damage is permanent and these horses are likely to develop signs of congestive heart failure if they are ridden, used in any type of performance sport, or stressed in some other way,” the June 10 complaint states.
     Flanigan owns and operates Black Fence Farm, a barn and equestrian training facility in Clovis, Calif., where many of the affected horses were boarded.
     Western Milling announced on Sept. 25, 2015, that it had voluntarily recalled 50-pound bags of Western Blend horse feed that had been manufactured on Sept. 8. The voluntary recall was initiated by the company after it learned that an ingredient in the feed may have contained monensin, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
     Flanigan claims that the company has a history of allowing its horse feed to become contaminated.
     “[The FDA] had sampled animal feed produced by Western Milling in 2009 and 2010 and found impermissibly high levels of monensin in that feed. The FDA reported these findings to Western Milling, but Western Milling failed to investigate or take any corrective actions,” she claims.
     The California Department of Food and Agriculture tested the contaminated horse feed that plaintiffs’ horses ate last year and confirmed that it contained unsafe levels of monensin, according to the complaint.
     The horse owners say that because of Western Milling’s toxic feed, they have “been forced to endure the cruel and unjust hardship of watching their cherished horses suffer and die painful and violent deaths.”
     Even the horses that are still alive are too sick for use or competition, so the owners will have to purchase new horses and retrain them in order to continue their sport, the complaint says.
     The owners, who are represented by Warren Paboojian of Baradat & Paboojian, seek punitive damages for emotional distress, strict liability, warranty and fraud.
     Attorneys for the parties did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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