Tag Archives: monkeys

PETA: Fine too low for death of primates at research facility

The federal government fined a private research facility after 13 primates died of hyperthermia in overheated rooms.

Covance Research Products in Alice was fined $31,500 for four violations of the U.S. Animal Welfare Act following the 2014 deaths of the cynomolgus monkeys, said Tanya Espinosa, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Animal rights activists said the fines were too low.

Espinosa said the maximum penalty for a single violation of the law is $10,000, so the maximum fine Covance faced was $40,000.

Two animals died in September 2014, when a thermostat malfunctioned at the facility.

The other deaths were caused by a similar incident about a month later, when a thermostat override switch failed.

The USDA issued a citation to Covance saying that it “failed to protect the health and well-being” of the animals.

The citation also found other primates suffered in July 2014, when they weren’t given water or proper care after being flown into Texas for Covance experiments.

“Covance directed transporters to travel without stopping to the Covance facility, despite being aware that the airline had not provided water as required, that the transport trailers’ air conditioning units were malfunctioning and that at least five nonhuman primates were weak and in distress,” the citation said.

Animal rights activists said the fines were too low.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, said Covance was a “brazen violator” of animal welfare laws and that fines “could and should be substantially higher if they are going to deter violations.”

Covance didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The company has said the Alice facility would be manually monitored until it added electronic temperature monitoring and alerts.

The company has headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey, and provides animal testing to aid in the development of drugs for an array of ailments, from heart disease to diabetes.

“Covance takes very seriously our ethical and regulatory responsibilities to treat research animals with the utmost care and respect,” the company said in a statement following the primate deaths.

Research and other facilities face unannounced USDA inspections each year, Espinosa said.

“We make sure they have fixed those areas of noncompliance, absolutely,” she said.

Critics: Proposed bill limiting exotic pet ownership in Wisconsin falls short of goal

Thirty minutes outside the Wisconsin Dells’ maze of flumes, rollercoasters, go-kart tracks and the duck boats plying the Wisconsin River, Jasmine is something of a minor local celebrity.

“I go to the pharmacy at ShopKo here in town and (people are) always, ‘Where’s Jasmine? Bring her in to see us!’” said her caretaker, Melanie Nawrot, 36, whose small capuchin monkey lives with her family in the city of Adams. “We go on the lake with her, a lot of 4-H clubs and Boy Scouts come and see her.”

Jasmine has been under the care of Nawrot since she was two days old after being rejected by her mother. Jasmine, who could live to be 45 years old, might outlive her, and Narwot said she has made provisions for the family’s pet in her will.

But Jasmine is also a wild animal. Owning a monkey, or almost any other nonnative animal species, is currently legal in Wisconsin. It is among five states — Alabama, Nevada, North Carolina and South Carolina are the others — that have no bans on owning “dangerous” exotic animals.

A bipartisan measure making its way through the state Legislature would change that. Senate Bill 241 would ban ownership, breeding and sale of  “dangerous” exotic animals, including non-native big cats, non-native bears, apes and crocodilians. A companion measure, Assembly Bill 333, also has been introduced.

Exotic pets not affected by the proposal include venomous snakes and constrictors, monkeys (including baboons) and marsupials, such as kangaroos.

Current owners of banned pets, such as tigers, lions and chimpanzees, would be allowed to keep their animals under the bill. Veterinarians, accredited and municipal zoos, circuses, federally licensed research facilities and wildlife sanctuaries also would be exempt, as would Circus World Museum in Baraboo.

Owners who violate the law would be subject to a $1,000 fine. If a dangerous exotic pet caused property damage or attacked someone, the owner could face a $2,000 fine.

The ban would not affect Melanie Nawrot or Jasmine, nor would it prohibit Nawrot from keeping her other exotic pets — a ring-tailed lemur and a pair of marmosets, another type of monkey.

And, as far as Nawrot can tell, SB 241 also would not immediately threaten Monkey Mommy LLC, the business through which she breeds, sells and offers monkeys for hire at special events and educational programs. Nawrot holds a dealer’s license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Nonetheless, Nawrot opposes the legislation. She said local governments in Wisconsin can and sometimes do pass their own regulations, and that is good enough.

“I personally think we’ve been doing a really good job in Wisconsin with exotic animal owners,” she said, adding, “Why fix something that’s not broken?” 

Bill, changes debated

SB 241, proposed by Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, was the subject of a hearing Oct. 1. The most passionate testimony centered on a not-yet-introduced amendment that some argued would weaken the bill.

The amendment would remove a provision that forbids members of the public from coming into direct contact with dangerous exotics, and exempt members of the Zoological Association of America as well as people and facilities licensed by the USDA.

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism reported in August about lax and fragmented oversight of exotic animal owners in Wisconsin, including by the USDA.

Three of the 15 speakers testified against the bill, including the executive director of the ZAA, the park director of Wisconsin’s only ZAA-accredited zoo, and a nonprofit reptile rescue and educational group. Out of those three, both ZAA-affiliated speakers said they would support the legislation if the amendment were added.

The 12 speakers testifying in favor of the bill included the owner of a big cat rescue organization, a wildlife rehabilitator, a veterinary assistant, animal advocates and zoo directors.

Even some proponents warned, however, that the measure contains loopholes that would make enforcement difficult. Some also told the committee that the proposed changes would gut the bill, leaving the state’s lenient approach to exotic animals largely intact. One speaker, Renee Benell of Fitchburg, questioned why other species such as snakes and monkeys were not included in the ban.

Dean Collins, Brookfield’s assistant police chief, told lawmakers the law would be “unenforceable” because it does not authorize officers to arrest owners who violate it. Collins also said unless the bill is amended to create a statewide database of animals, authorities will not be able to determine the owners of animals that escape or are released.

The amendment to exempt certain licensees and allow public contact with dangerous exotics has not been formally introduced yet, said Valirie Maxim, a Wanggaard staffer. The senator’s chief of staff, Scott Kelly, said the bill likely will get a vote near the end of October in the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.

Wanggaard has said the measure was partially inspired by reports of a lion-like creature near Milwaukee, thought to be an escaped or released exotic pet and a 2013 incident in which police and the Racine Zoo discovered rattlesnakes, alligators, crocodiles, a snapping turtle and a Gila monster in a Kenosha home.

Push for stricter bill

Melissa Tedrowe, the Wisconsin state director for the Humane Society of the United States, attended the hearing and said she hopes to work with lawmakers to refine elements of SB 241, particularly its grandfather clause.

Under the bill, people who owned dangerous exotic animals at the time the bill went to effect could keep their pets, but would be required to pay a fee and register the animals with their municipality. Enforcement of the law would be the responsibility of local governments, and owners would be required to notify local authorities if their dangerous exotic pet escaped.

Tedrowe recommended that in cases in which existing exotic pets are grandfathered in, Wisconsin lawmakers should require owners to have a minimum five acres of land, have at least two years’ experience caring for such an animal or pass a written exam on caring for the species.

Tedrowe also said lawmakers should require exotic pet owners exempted under the grandfather clause to carry liability insurance in case the animal harms anyone or causes damage. In addition, she suggested any owner of a “dangerous” exotic pet be at least 21 years old and that all such pets be microchipped “unless a veterinarian says it’s not a good idea.”

Chuck Wikenhauser, director of the Milwaukee County Zoo, said in an interview that he was surprised to find out lawmakers were already considering an amendment. On behalf of all five Wisconsin zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Wikenhauser testified in favor of the bill but against the proposed amendment to allow people to come in contact with the animals and exempt those with licenses from the USDA or accreditation through the ZAA.

“A lot of roadside zoos or zoos that are less than adequate as far as their ability to manage animals with modern zoological standards have USDA licenses, and it doesn’t necessarily qualify them or make them prime candidates to home some of these dangerous exotic animals,” Wikenhauser said.

The Milwaukee zoo belongs to the AZA, an organization that Wikenhauser, who chairs the group’s accreditation commission, said has been the professional standard recognized by the federal and state governments for many years. Members of that organization, including the Racine Zoo (Wanggaard is a board member), are already exempt under SB 241.

But Zoological Association of America executive director Alan Smith, who opposes the bill unless it is amended, said in an email that “there are really no important differences” in terms of animal welfare and public safety between facilities accredited by the two associations. The ZAA lists Wildwood Wildlife Park and Nature Center in Minocqua, which is also licensed by the USDA, as its only Wisconsin member.

But Wikenhauser said broadening the exemption “waters down the bill.”

“If (the bill) is amended to include all of that,” he said, “I don’t think it’s going to accomplish what (lawmakers) had hoped it would.”

This is the latest installment in the series “Exotic and exploited?”, which examines Wisconsinites’ relationships with exotic animals and efforts to regulate them. The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

Banned or not banned?

Senate Bill 241 and Assembly Bill 333 would ban the breeding, sale and ownership of certain

“dangerous” exotic animals in Wisconsin in some instances. But some dangerous animals are already banned, and others would be allowed under the measure.

Would be banned: “Dangerous” exotic animals

Lions, tigers, jaguars, leopards, snow leopards, clouded leopards, Sunda clouded leopards, cheetahs, big cat hybrids, Asiatic black bears, brown bears, polar bears, sloth bears, sun bears, giant panda bears, spectacled bears, bear hybrids, gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees, bonobos, gibbons, alligators, crocodiles and caimans could not be kept as pets.

Already banned: Wildlife native to Wisconsin

Under existing state law, native wildlife, species deemed “harmful,” and endangered or threatened species cannot be kept as pets. The list of species currently banned include white-tailed deer, mink, badgers, wild and feral swine, cougars, black bears, raccoon, weasels, striped skunk, Canadian lynx, gray wolves, bobcats, red foxes and Northern river otters.

Not banned: Other exotic animals

Boa constrictors, anacondas, ball pythons, capuchin monkeys, marmosets, baboons, mandrills, macaques, squirrel monkeys, spider monkeys, chameleons, iguanas, geckos, bearded dragons, sugar gliders, chinchillas, lemurs, sloths, kangaroos, wallabies and zebras could continue to be kept as pets.

Captive and wild chimps listed as endangered under Endangered Species Act

Captive and wild chimpanzees are now listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

The increased federal protection of captive chimpanzees is expected to curb the use of the animals in invasive biomedical research, interstate trade as pets and use by the entertainment industry.

The new listing from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is in response to a 2010 legal petition by the Humane Society of the United States and other groups.

Under the Endangered Species Act, a permit for any activity that would involve harming, harassing, killing or the use of chimpanzees in interstate commerce is required.

Habitat loss and poaching, driven in part by the exploitation of captive chimpanzees, has led to a drop of more than 65 percent in populations of wild chimpanzees.

Fish and Wildlife previously recognized wild chimpanzees as endangered, yet captive chimpanzees did not have the protection. This “split-listing,” enacted in 1990, facilitated the exploitation of captive chimpanzees in the United States, according to the Humane Society. The new listing effectively ends the split-listing. 

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the HSUS said on June 12, “Combined with NIH’s decision two years ago to phase out the use of the vast majority of chimps in invasive experiments, today’s action signals a rather extraordinary commitment by this Administration to protect chimpanzees at home and abroad. These intelligent, beleaguered animals deserve these concerted, multi-pronged efforts to protect them.”

Jane Goodall, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and U.N. Messenger of Peace, issued a statement. She said,  “This change shows that many people are finally beginning to understand that it is not appropriate to subject our closest relatives to disrespectful, stressful or harmful procedures, whether as pets, in advertising or other forms of entertainment, or medical research.  That we are beginning to realize our responsibilities towards these sentient, sapient beings, and that the government is listening.”

The HSUS petition, which contained scientific evidence in support of upgrading the status of captive chimpanzees, spurred an official FWS status review of chimpanzees under the Endangered Species Act. The review led to the 2013 proposed rule to protect all chimpanzees, which has now been finalized.

As a result of the final listing, FWS will evaluate each permit application to determine whether the proposed action would promote conservation of the species, as required by the ESA.

The petition was filed by a coalition of organizations, including the HSUS, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Jane Goodall Institute, the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance, the New England Anti-Vivisection Society, the Wildlife Conservation Society, The Fund for Animals and Humane Society International. The project involved the generous support of the Arcus Foundation.

The petition was prepared by lawyers with the HSUS’s animal protection litigation section in consultation with the Washington public interest law firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal.

UW-Madison researcher changes monkey study that drew outcry

A mental health researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison won’t take newborn monkeys away from their mothers as part of an upcoming study.

Dr. Ned Kalin told the Wisconsin State Journal that complaints from animal rights groups weren’t behind the change in the study. Rather, he says other research found anxiety isn’t increased when newborn monkeys are separated from their mothers.

“We’re changing the experiment based on science, not based on pressure that I’ve had,” Kalin said.

More than 383,000 people had signed an online petition asking that the study be canceled. The study plans to put monkeys through stress tests and euthanize them after a year to study their brains.

Hannah West, executive director of Alliance for Animals and the Environment, said the group still opposes the study. But she said she’s happy the newborns won’t be taken from mothers, no matter the reason.

“The part about removing the babies from the mothers really touches the heartstrings,” West said. “But these tests are really invasive, and they’re killing the monkeys at a really young age.”

Kalin said the study is being done to try to better understand anxiety and depression. Such studies could lead to new drugs and treatments, he said.

Another study done by Kalin had used monkeys that were neglected or abused by their mothers and were removed from them. That study found those monkeys were not more anxious than others not removed from their mothers.

“We actually found less anxiety, to our surprise,” Kalin said.

Kalin plans to begin the new study by June. It was approved nearly a year ago by the school’s animal research committee, and it will include 40 rhesus macaque monkeys.

Research: Experimental HIV-prevention drug shows promise

Exciting research suggests that a shot every one to three months may someday give an alternative to the daily pills that some people take now to cut their risk of getting HIV.

The experimental drug has only been tested for prevention in monkeys, but it completely protected them from infection in two studies reported at an AIDS conference on Tuesday.

“This is the most exciting innovation in the field of HIV prevention that I’ve heard recently,” said Dr. Robert Grant, an AIDS expert at the Gladstone Institutes, a foundation affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco.

“Both groups are showing 100 percent protection” with the drug, Grant said of the two groups of researchers. “If it works and proves to be safe, it would allow for HIV to be prevented with periodic injections, perhaps every three months.”

Until a vaccine is developed, condoms are the best way to prevent infection with the AIDS virus and many other sexually spread diseases. But not everyone uses them, or does so all the time, so public health officials have pursued other prevention options.

A drug used to treat people with HIV – Gilead Science’s Truvada – also is used to help prevent infection in people who don’t have the virus. A big study among gay men a few years ago found it could cut this risk by up to 90 percent, depending on how faithfully people take the daily pills.

The new research tested something that could make this type of prevention much more practical – a long-acting experimental drug made by GlaxoSmithKline PLC. The studies tested it in macaques exposed to a human-monkey version of HIV.

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave six monkeys shots of the drug every four weeks; six others got dummy shots. All were exposed to the virus twice a week for 11 weeks.

The monkeys who got the fake treatment were readily infected “but the animals that received the long-acting drug remained protected,” said study leader Gerardo Garcia-Lerma of the CDC.

The results mirror what was seen in the CDC’s early research in monkeys on Truvada, the pill that’s available for HIV prevention now.

In the second study, Chasity Andrews and others at the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center at Rockefeller University in New York gave eight monkeys two shots of the drug, four weeks apart, and dummy shots to eight others. The animals were exposed to the virus weekly for eight weeks. Again, all animals given the fake treatment were quickly infected and those on the drug were all protected.

To see how long a single shot would last, they did a second study. The single shot protected 12 monkeys for about 10 weeks on average.

The dose used in a single shot corresponded to what people would get from a shot every three months, researchers said.

“This is really promising,” said Dr. Judith Currier, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, Los Angeles. The research “supports moving this forward” into human testing, she said.

Currier is on the program committee for the meeting in Boston where the studies were presented – the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections. The New York study also was published online by the journal Science.

Grant said the long-acting drug is chemically similar to certain AIDS medicines sold now that are “extremely safe, well tolerated and extremely potent.” A mid-stage trial testing the long-acting shots in people as a treatment, not a prevention, is already underway, he said.

Tenn. senator wants schools to notify parents of ‘homosexual’ activity

A Republican lawmaker is proposing legislation that would require schools to inform a student’s parents if the child is engaging in “homosexual” activity.

Under the measure sponsored by state Sen. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville, a school counselor, nurse or principal can inform parents if their children’s “circumstances present immediate and urgent safety issues involving human sexuality.”

Campfield told reporters on that he considers the “act of homosexuality” to be dangerous to a child’s health and safety.

The measure is part of a proposal, known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, that Campfield passed in the Senate in 2011, but the companion bill failed in the House last year.

The proposal would ban the teaching of gay issues to elementary and middle school students.

Campfield says the current legislation has a House sponsor and he’s optimistic about its passage.

Last year, in a radio interview discussing his anti-gay campaign, Campfield said HIV and AIDS originated from a man having sex with a monkey and that “it is virtually … impossible to contract AIDS through heterosexual sex.”

That remark prompted him to be ejected from a popular brunch bistro in Knoxville.