Judge approves pet-food recall settlement

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Camden, N.J. -- Pet owners whose animals became ill or died from consuming products involved in last year's massive pet-food recall have until Nov. 24 to file claims.

Camden, N.J.

-- Pet owners whose animals became ill or died from consuming products involved in last year's massive pet-food recall have until Nov. 24 to file claims.

Judge Noel Hillman approved a $24 million class-action settlement in U.S. District Court, opening the way for U.S. claimants to receive compensation checks next year. Canadian pet owners affected will find out whether they will share in the settlement when a Canadian judge rules on it Nov. 3.

The terms, worked out earlier this year with more than 50 lawyers, do not include any payments for emotional losses as some pet owners wanted.

Expenses that can be covered include cost of the foods, medical and burial expenses, the property value of the animals and costs of replacing them with other pets, replacing carpets or other household materials ruined by sick pets, owners' time off from work to seek veterinary care and even exams for pets that didn't become ill.

Some 1,500 claims have been filed to date, attorneys say, averaging about $1,500, but the amount each plaintiff finally receives is subject to review. Each claim must be reasonably substantiated.

Any funds left after payment of all claims, and about $5 million in lawyers' fees, will go to animal-welfare charities.

The recalled foods involved nearly 200 brands, the largest such recall in U.S. history. Most of it was manufactured by Menu Foods Inc., of Streetsville, Ontario, Canada; Menu Foods Income Fund was the lead defendant in the case.

An ingredient in the products, wheat gluten imported from China, was found to have been tainted with the chemical melamine. Lab tests showed a combination of melamine and cyanuric acid caused kidney failure in the animals.

The number of pets that died was never officially stated, but one of the plaintiffs' attorneys estimated it was about 1,500.

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