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Feed plant to pay $2.4 million to settle lawsuit for poisoning 49 horses in Clovis

Rachel Winch boarded her horse, Gucci, at Black Fence Farm. Gucci died in October after eating monensin-tainted horse feed. The ranch is now suing Western Milling, LLC, the company allegedly responsible for manufacturing the poisonous feed.
Rachel Winch boarded her horse, Gucci, at Black Fence Farm. Gucci died in October after eating monensin-tainted horse feed. The ranch is now suing Western Milling, LLC, the company allegedly responsible for manufacturing the poisonous feed.

Western Milling will pay $2.4 million to settle a Fresno Superior Court lawsuit for selling tainted feed that killed or severely injured 49 horse at a horse ranch in Clovis in September 2015.

Fresno attorney Warren Paboojian said Monday that Black Fence Farms in Clovis, as well as a number of other plaintiffs, will benefit from the settlement.

Western Milling in Goshen manufactured and distributed Western Blend Hose Fee, Lot 5251. The horse feed killed 21 horses and severely sickened 28 others, said Paboojian and co-counsel Adam Stirrup.

A lawsuit says Western Milling was well aware of contamination in its feed products. Between December 2009 and July 2010, the lawsuit alleged, the United States Food and Drug Administration found “impermissibly high” samples of monensin in feed samples produced by the company.

Monensin is an antibiotic used to kill parasites and aid in weight gain. It’s used in cattle and poultry feed but is highly toxic to horses, in which it can cause heart and neurological problems. In some cases, symptoms don’t appear until months after exposure, which means even asymptomatic horses can no longer be used for riding.

Katie Flanigan, who owns Black Fence Farm, unknowingly purchased the contaminated product and fed it to the horses in her care — including 21 of her own.

As a result of the September 2015 poisoning, the California Department of Food and Agriculture revoked Western Millings’ commercial fee license “for repeated and multiple violations,” Paboojian said. The state agency also fined Western Milling $726,000. In addition, Western Milling agreed to cease all manufacturing of horse feed at its Goshen plant by April 15, 2017.

Pablo Lopez: 559-441-6434, @beecourts
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