Photo from left: Scotty, Olive, Ms. Romero. A nationwide class action lawsuit claims Scotty and Olive are among the hundreds of dogs killed by adulterated Sportmix dog food.

A nationwide class action lawsuit has been filed against Midwestern Pet Foods, Inc., makers of Sportmix, for selling poisonous food that killed hundreds of dogs and sickened hundreds of others.

The dogs were poisoned by “aflatoxin, a mold, that can cause sickness and death to pets” and suffered “sluggishness, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or jaundice (yellowish tint to the eyes, gums or skin due to liver damage)” before dying. This includes Olive, whose family rushed her to the emergency veterinarian on Christmas Day. The examining physician said that,

Olive had been poisoned, her organs were shutting down, her chances of survival were low, she was suffering, and letting her pass naturally would prolong the pain she was in. Ms. Romero and her 11-year-old son decided to euthanize Olive, which happened even before Ms. Romero’s husband, an on-duty New Mexico State Trooper, was able to arrive to say goodbye to Olive.

When they returned home, they found Scotty, their other dog,

[V]omiting, he was very weak, and a puddle of dark blood was on the floor next to him. She rushed Scotty to the vet. Dr. Jantzen advised that Scotty was bleeding internally and needed to be euthanized.

The number of dogs who have been killed by tainted Sportmix pet food is now well over 100 and the number of dogs who have been sickened by it is over 200. A six month old dog is also among the dead. Electra died en route to the vet. She “bled through four layers of bedding.”

The number of injured and killed is likely many times higher as the FDA has previously noted that, “Reports submitted only to the pet food manufacturer are not shared with FDA and are not a part of this count.” Midwestern Pet Foods, Inc., which owns Sportmix, has not been forthcoming with those numbers.

It also does not include those injured and killed in other countries. The FDA says that the tainted food may have also been sent to,

Bahrain, Barbados, Chile, Costa Rica, Curacao, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Polynesia, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Korea, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Singapore, Taiwan, Trinidad, Ukraine, UAE, Uruguay, and Vietnam.

The lawsuit further claims that Midwestern falsely “touted only selecting the highest quality ingredients and testing and re-testing to ensure the health and safety of pets eating Defendant’s pet foods,” a claim the company has since allegedly taken down from its website.

According to one source, “Midwestern CEO Jeffrey Nunn has declined multiple requests” to state what his company is doing to protect other dogs from being harmed/killed. 

This hubris by Mr. Nunn, and the killing of the dogs because of his company’s contaminated food, occurs because pet food companies, like Midwestern Pet Foods, are shielded from full liability for the harm they cause.

When a veterinarian, boarding kennel, groomer, or — as in the case here — a pet food manufacturer proves incompetent, when they perform below a standard of reasonableness and wrongly injure, kill, or allow your beloved companion to die, they will argue in court that the animal has no real value and groups like the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Kennel Club want to keep it that way, claiming that a dog (or cat or other beloved animal companion) is like a toaster. If you break it, you just throw it away and get a new one. Tragically, too many courts agree.

It’s time that our laws caught up with what dogs deserve and how most people feel about them. Full liability, including for pain and suffering, is the key to holding Midwestern Pet Foods accountable and stopping this from happening again.

The lawsuit claims failure to warn, unjust enrichment, products liability, and breach of warranty.

The Complaint in Romero vs. Midwestern Pet Foods, Inc. is here.

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