Most than a year later, after the recalls, thousands of pets dead and sickened, the number of which will never truly be known, lives changed forever, Menu Foods and others involved in the massive recall will finally be ponying up the green. Not that any amount of money will ever bring back the lives lost but maybe it will help the people whose pets will suffer and continue to need expensive vet care for the rest of their lives.

Maybe it will help pay off the vet bills for those who lost their beloved furry family members and are still paying. It will never erase the hurt, pain and sorrow but if it can help to ease some of the financial burden these people are still facing. And maybe it will wake these manufacturers up that they can’t get away with not giving a damn anymore. This hits them where it hurts, the wallets. Since this is all they care about, their bottom line, this is the only way to make a point to them!

Menu Foods, other pet food makers and retailers involved in last year’s massive pet food recall will set up a $24 million cash fund to compensate pet owners, according to a proposed settlement filed Thursday in federal court.

The fund is expected to compensate thousands of pet owners in the U.S. and Canada who bought recalled pet foods made by Menu and 11 others. The products had a contaminated ingredient from China that sickened dogs and cats.

The $24 million is in addition to $8 million that pet food makers have already paid to pet owners. Legal fees and expenses, which haven’t been determined, will come out of the fund. The settlement, negotiated over the past seven months, would resolve more than 100 lawsuits by more than 250 plaintiffs brought in the U.S. and a dozen in Canada.

If the settlement is approved by the court, the fund is expected to be set up and disbursed over a period of months. Unlike many large settlements, consumers will get cash rather than coupons.

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.

In addition to Menu, defendants include pet-food makers Del Monte, Hill’s Pet Nutrition and Iams; retailers such as Wal-Mart and importers ChemNutra and Wilbur-Ellis.

The contaminated pet food ingredients, wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate, were adulterated in China with the industrial chemical melamine, which would make them appear to be richer in protein.

The recall was the largest of pet food in history, drawing Food and Drug Administration review, congressional inquiry and U.S. attorney investigations. Within days of the recall, the first lawsuits were filed against Menu and others.

The FDA never identified how many pets were affected, but it received more than 17,000 pet-owner complaints.

The settlement document doesn’t say how much each defendant will pay. The recall covered 180 brands of pet food and treats.

Once it is approved, the settlement will be widely publicized. A toll-free number and website will be set up to disburse information.

The agreement also requires that pet food makers test wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate for melamine, which pet food makers already say they are doing, and continue other quality-control steps. (USA Today)

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