FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --A Fresno County ranch which lost 13 horses has now filed a lawsuit in Fresno County Superior Court against a south valley feed company. The ranch claims it was sold tainted feed which led to the horses' deaths.
The company in question - Western Milling of Goshen - has never spoken publicly about the situation. Our requests for a comment again went unanswered. 13 horses died a slow death at Black Fence Farm near Clovis in September. California Department Food and Agriculture lab tests on their feed indicated toxic levels of a cattle antibiotic called monensin which can be lethal to horses. Attorney Sean Simpson said, "Main reason we're here is so these people who have lost horses either to illness or death can be treated fairly and be given reasonable compensation for what they've lost. The value will be up to a jury."
Attorneys said they were eyeing a multi-million dollar figure.
The lawsuit against Western Milling alleges negligence and fraud. Ranch owner Katie Flanigan was joined by some of the 24 other horse owners whose animals either died or were allegedly sickened by the feed. Flanigan said, "We're hoping for compensation that will allow us to buy these children new horses. They can go out and they can start to pick up the pieces and continue on. For clients who have horses who are still living we'd like to see them be financially able to care for their horses."
In 2010 the Food and Drug Administration warned Western Milling it "failed to implement adequate safeguards to prevent unsafe contamination in the production of medicated and non-medicated feeds."
Simpson said, "I think they could do it right if they didn't put profits over safety. If they had necessary safety precautions we wouldn't be here."
Western Milling recalled 1,100 of the feed bags in question but Simpson said cross-contamination of feed remained a major concern for ranchers.
The first conference over the lawsuit was scheduled for June though Simpson said it was still possible the case could be settled out of court.