According to the FDA, to date, several cats and dogs in the U.S. have died from contaminated pet food. At this point, it's hard to say what the official death toll is. The story hits especially close to home for one LaPorte County family.
They claim their cat died after eating some of the wet cat food that was recalled. In LaPorte County court Thursday, the Koontz family attorney filed suit against Menu Foods. Ironically, the Koontz's cat Smokey died on March 16th, the very day that Menu Foods announced their original recall.
The family and their attorney say the recalled "special kitty" wet cat food is what killed their cat Smokey. “It was the day after we lost her,” says Judy Koontz, “I didn't know anything about it until we lost her and the next day, I heard we had the recall.”
Like many families, the Koontz family considered their cat Smokey to be a part of the family. They have four other cats, but Smokey was their only indoor cat. Similar to other lawsuits filed since the pet food recall, the Koontz’s claim Menu Foods was negligent and didn't pull the food from store shelves weeks before. “I was trying to force feed it this food, try to give it protein and low and behold it was poisoned from what I understand,” says Rickey Koontz.
James Macalka, the family's attorney, thinks the case is strong. “These recall numbers match up to what's on that list,” says Macalka, referring to the numbers on the packets of pet food Smokey ate. Macalka is sending the packets of the food to a lab for testing. The Koontz's also have vet documents detailing Smokey's squeaky clean bill of health, before the incident. They also have test results on the cat taken the day before she died, showing the problems with the cats kidney and liver. “What's significant is we have what was ailing the cat when it died and based upon the knowledge of what was causing other cats to die,” says Macalka.
Smokey's presence is especially missed by the Koontz's son Jeff. After being disabled several years ago, the cat was his close companion. “She would jump up on my lap and every time I went to pet her she started purring,” says Koontz. “It's upsetting that they didn't pull the food off the shelf sooner because she might have lived.”
In Indiana, the family can only sue for punitive damages, and they're not saying how much. By law, they can't sue for pain and suffering, even though they believe the loss of their cat has taken an emotional toll. They just want to make sure this doesn't happen again to other pet owners.
Newscenter 16 also has phone calls into Menu Foods on this case, but so far they have not returned our calls.