Horse deaths spark recall at Florida animal feed market

3 horses dead, dozens others ill at Masterpiece Equestrian Center

DAVIE, Fla. – The deaths of three horses and illnesses of more than a dozen others has prompted a nationwide recall from a Florida animal feed maker.

The horses are boarded at the Masterpiece Equestrian Center on Southwest 26th Street. They appear healthy, but veterinarians said all 19 of them are suffering and that their organs are slowly shutting down.

"They seem lethargic," said Debra Buis, who has boarded her two horses at the barn for the past six years. "One of our horses had blood in his nose one day. He has had bloodwork done and his heart shows damage."

It's where her daughters learned and love to ride. But no more, because theirs and the other horses were poisoned by feed tainted with an antibiotic steroid called Monensin that was designed for livestock.

"Monensin should not be associated with horse feed or horses at all," said attorney Andrew Yaffa, who represents Buis and the farm owners, Rick and Millie Price.

They inadvertently gave the horses toxic feed from the Lakeland Animal Nutrition company in central Florida. Yaffa said he believes there was mix-up during the manufacturing process.

"One day, as I understand it, they make cow feed and pig feed," said Yaffa. "The next day, they make horse feed, but they're using the same equipment. And Monensin is appropriate for cows and pigs, but it's poisonous for horses, and that's my only explanation."

Three horses have already died from heart and renal failure. The mix-up is also killing the boarding and riding business that barn owner Millie Price has established. She was too distraught to talk on camera.

"All of her students, all the people who are taking lessons now are looking at this as something that takes away from the reputation she's built all these years, so this is extremely difficult," said her husband, Rick Price.

It's unclear how long it will be until the poison takes its toll on these horses. Yaffa said there's no antidote and that's a tough pill for the horse lovers to swallow.

"I buy food for my children and if I opened a package and fed it to them and they were poisoned, it would be the same thing to us, and they're devastated, absolutely devastated," said Buis.

In response to the horse deaths, the Lakeland Animal Nutrition issued a voluntary recall of all horse feed manufactured during a recent four week period. The brand and lot numbers are:

  • Signature Status Pellet (Lot Number 14-251) – Manufacture Date: Sept. 8
  • Signature Equilete Pellet (Lot Number 14-259) – Manufacture Date: Sept. 16
  • Signature Status Pellet (Lot Number 14-280) – Manufacture Date: Oct. 7
  • LAN 10 Pellet (Lot Number 14-281) – Manufacture Date: Oct. 8

"The recall was communicated to all dealers and distributors, and a notice was posted on our website, social media accounts and on the doors of our downtown Lakeland storefront," company spokesman Jonathan Lang said in a statement. "To date, there have been no further reports of an issue outside of Masterpiece. No further equine food was produced or sold. For 95 years, Lakeland Animal Nutrition has been a trusted nutrition partner within the Florida market. As such, Lakeland is deeply saddened by the horses' sickness and deaths. Although Lakeland has elected to leave the equine nutrition business and focus on livestock feeds, the company remains fervently committed to the quality and traceability of its products and is prepared to take all measures necessary to ensuring this commitment to the animal and the customer is fully upheld."

The company has also permanently discontinued its entire line of equine feed products.

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