Fido's life is worth a piece of $24 million


Late last week, a $24 million settlement was reached in the case of companies selling contaminated pet food which caused illness and death for hundreds (thousands?) of pets. The defendants were Menu Foods Income Fund and a bunch of other pet food suppliers and manufacturers.

The court still has to approve the settlement, but if it does, it will bring to a close over 100 lawsuits related to the tainted pet food. The food was recalled in March 2007, when it was determined that wheat gluten and rice protein from China had tainted over 150 brands of dog food and cat food.

Some pet owners have already received money via earlier settlements totaling $8 million. This new settlement will be divided between pet owners who have documented expenses related to the injuries and/or deaths of their pets. Pet owners who don't have documented expenses might be able to get up to $900. Everyone's payout will ultimately depend on how many claims are filed, how much is claimed, and how much it costs for the attorneys to administer the damages.

So how much is your pet's life worth? I don't think it's easy to put a number on it. No one wants to see a loved one (even an animal) in pain, and the effects of the tainted pet food were horrible. I hope that at least this settlement can help owners recover their costs, as well as teach the companies involved an important lesson about quality control and safety of products.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.