Settlement Reached in Horse Deaths Caused By Tainted Feed

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By Jennifer Kay

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) - A Florida equestrian center where 22 horses were poisoned by tainted feed has reached a settlement with the company that produced and sold the feed.

Two horses had to be euthanized Friday, bringing the death toll at Masterpiece Equestrian Center in Davie to six since October, said Andy Yaffa, the attorney representing the center and the owners of 20 of the horses.

All the horses at the center ate the contaminated feed, and all are expected to eventually die. Their owners can do little except keep vigil over the animals as their health fails.

The terms of the settlement last week with Lakeland Animal Nutrition are confidential, but Yaffa said Monday that his clients will be able to buy new horses and care for the remaining ailing horses - all of which are expected to die.

The afflicted horses range from ponies worth $25,000 to $50,000 to elite competitors worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"The remaining horses continue to deteriorate - unfortunately," Yaffa said. "We knew they would but did not want to believe it. We also did not realize it would be so fast."

The feed arrived at the center in September but it was weeks before anyone realized something was wrong with all the horses at Masterpiece.

Since the first deaths in October, the horses' owners have tried to keep their animals comfortable, lavishing attention on them with "spa days" in their stables. All riding lessons were suspended, and the parents of the center's youngest riders struggled to explain how all the horses, not just one or two, were dying and there was nothing anyone could do except give the horses extra treats and grooming.

Lakeland Animal Nutrition has said the contamination was limited to the feed at Masterpiece, and no other horses elsewhere were reported sickened because of it. The Lakeland-based company recalled the product, stopped producing equine feeds and acknowledged that feed delivered to Masterpiece contained monensin and lasalocid, anti-bacterial additives safe for livestock such as cattle and some poultry but toxic to horses' muscles.

General manager Jonathan Lang said the 95-year-old company was devastated by the losses at Masterpiece.

"Although their beloved animals could never be replaced, it is our hope that this settlement will bring them some peace and allow them to continue pursuing their passion for equestrian care and sport," Lang said in an email.

Necropsies performed on four horses that died at Masterpiece before the settlement last week confirmed monensin poisoning. The remaining horses all showed the same progressive symptoms, including difficulty standing, but no more necropsies will be needed, Yaffa said.

"We know what's causing this," Yaffa said, adding that Lakeland Animal Nutrition had "acted honorably throughout the restoration process."

Florida's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is investigating.

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Settlement reached in horse deaths caused by tainted feed
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Settlement Reached in Horse Deaths Caused By Tainted Feed
FILE - In a Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014 file photo, Izabella Gosttschall, right, and her sister, Sophia, talk to one of the remaining horses at the Masterpiece Equestrian Center in Davie, Fla. Izabella recently lost her horse to a batch of feed tainted by additives safe for other livestock but toxic to horses. The Masterpiece Equestrian Center, where 22 horses were poisoned by tainted feed, has reached a settlement with the company that produced and sold the feed. Andy Yaffa, the attorney representing the equestrian center and the owners of 20 of the horses said Monday, Dec. 29, 2014, that the terms of the settlement are confidential, but his clients will be able to care for their ailing horses and purchase new horses. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter, File)
Ava Exelbirt walks one of the remaining sick horses at Masterpiece Equestrian Center in Davie, Fla., Tuesday, Dec. 16 2014. Ava lost the horse she had ridden for years on Monday, and Buis has two sick horses at the center. A batch of feed tainted by additives safe for other livestock but toxic to horses arrived at the center in September, and all 22 horses there ate the feed for a month before anyone realized something was wrong. There's nothing that can be done to the horses, so their young riders are holding "spa days" to brush their manes and tails, paint their hooves, feed them hay and pet their noses to keep the animals comfortable in their last days. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
Debra Buis, left, hugs Ava Exelbrit at the Masterpiece Equestrian Center in Davie, Fla., Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. Ava lost the horse she had ridden for years, and Buis has two sick horses at the center. A batch of feed tainted by additives safe for other livestock but toxic to horses arrived at the center in September, and all 22 horses there ate the feed for a month before anyone realized something was wrong. There's nothing that can be done to the horses, so their young riders are holding "spa days" to brush their manes and tails, paint their hooves, feed them hay and pet their noses to keep the animals comfortable in their last days. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
Ava Exelbirt brushes one of the remaining horses at Masterpiece Equestrian Center in Davie, Fla., Tuesday, Dec. 16 2014. There's nothing that can be done to save 18 poisoned horses at the equestrian center, so their young riders are holding "spa days" to brush their manes and tails, paint their hooves, feed them hay and pet their noses to keep the animals comfortable in their last days. Four horses at Masterpiece Equestrian Center have died since October because of contaminated feed, and the owners of the rest are struggling to accept the approaching deaths of the others. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
One of the remaining sick horses stands in the sun at the Masterpiece Equestrian Center in Davie, Fla., Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. A batch of feed tainted by additives safe for other livestock but toxic to horses arrived at the center in September, and all 22 horses there ate the feed for a month before anyone realized something was wrong. There's nothing that can be done to save 18 poisoned horses at a Florida equestrian center, so their young riders are holding "spa days" to brush their manes and tails, paint their hooves, feed them hay and pet their noses to keep the animals comfortable in their last days. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
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