Lauri Osborne of Plymouth, Conn. feared the worst when she learned of the national pet food recall.
One of her cats had already died from kidney failure and two became seriously ill. All three of the Plymouth woman’s cats had been eating the Iams brand canned food, made by Canada-based Menu Foods. The brands and codes on the food matched the recalled products. Then came word that an ingredient found in rat poison may have been involved.
“I went out to the car on my lunch break and cried my eyes out,” Osborne said.
The company has confirmed the deaths of 15 cats and one dog. Other deaths have been reported anecdotally around the country, but have not been confirmed by the Menu Foods.
Scientists at the New York State Animal Health Diagnostic Center at Cornell University and at the New York State Food Laboratory tested three cat food samples provided by the manufacturer and found aminopterin, a drug used to kill rats, induce abortions and treat cancer, in two of them.
Bruce Newman, a Bristol attorney retained by Osborne, said Monday he has filed a federal class-action lawsuit against Menu Foods “on behalf of Lauri and all the similarly situated pet owners. There has got to be a lot of people out there affected.”
The lawsuit is seeking an unspecified amount of damages.
Bristol veterinarian Dr. Cara Sweet is treating Osborne’s two surviving cats with daily intravenous antibiotics.
“The timing of everything… it’s all just really fitting the picture,” Sweet said.
She said she contacted Iams to report the cats’ symptoms in early March and was told at that time by a company spokesman that there were no other complaints.
“Nobody knew about it then. It’s just unfortunate that (Osborne) ended up being one of the statistics,” said Sweet. “Unfortunately, sometimes that’s the only way we can find out about these things.”
The FDA has reported more than 4,400 calls from concerned pet owners.
Menu Foods is facing other lawsuits in the deaths.
Stephen Sundlof, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s top veterinarian, has said the agency hasn’t ruled out sabotage, but doesn’t have any leads — nor any theories how the drug could have contaminated the pet food.
The FDA believes the drug was used only in animal feed but has asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to watch for any uptick in human cases of poisoning.
Meanwhile, Osborne is left with thousands of dollars in vet bills and the loss of a beloved pet.
“It’s just a nightmare. Every day gets worse,” Osborne said. “My cats are my whole life… they’re like my children.”
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