Tag Archives: penalties

Biotech firm to pay $3.5M fine to settle animal-abuse case

A leading biotech firm will pay a $3.5 million fine and cancel its research registration to settle allegations that it mistreated goats and rabbits at a California facility.

The settlement between Santa Cruz Biotechnology Inc. and the U.S. Department of Agriculture also revokes the company’s license to sell, buy, trade or import animals.

The settlement required the Dallas-based company to pay the fine and cancel its research registration by May 31.

The USDA’s complaints listed violations ranging from failing to provide veterinary care to goats with wounds from coyote and snake bites or massive tumors and housing rabbits in cruel conditions, including putting them in elevated cages with open doors or in small, crowded cages.

Santa Cruz Biotechnology contested the government complaints and the agreement says the company “neither admits nor denies” the USDA’s assertions.

The company did not respond to requests for comment.

The Animal Welfare Institute, an advocacy group, praised the settlement, saying the $3.5 million fine is historic.

“Previously, the highest penalties paid to the USDA were less than $300,000, demonstrating the monumental nature of this settlement,” said Cathy Liss, president of the institute. “It should serve as a loud and clear message to all research facilities, animal dealers, exhibitors and airlines regulated under this law.”

Wildlife group: Wisconsin environmental fines down sharply

Wisconsin collected dramatically less in fines for environmental violations last year, according to data released this month.

The Wisconsin Wildlife Federation obtained figures tracking forfeitures the state Justice Department has collected for infractions involving air and water pollution, farm animal waste from both small farms and factory operations and hazardous waste between 2006 and 2015.

The data shows the agency collected $306,834 last year, down 86 percent from the 10-year annual average of $2.2 million and down 78 percent from a year earlier, when the state collected almost $1.4 million.

The data shows that in 2015 the department collected no forfeitures for animal waste violations at factory farms, for hazardous waste violations or for public water violations. Air pollution penalties were down 79 percent from the 10-year average.

The DNR refers environmental cases to the Justice Department for prosecution. The group’s data didn’t show how many referrals DNR made to DOJ or how many cases DOJ may have settled without forfeitures. Federation executive director George Meyer wouldn’t give specifics on the source of the group’s data.

“The federation does not know whether the dramatic decrease in environmental penalty violations is the result of lack of inspections of regulated facilities by the Department of Natural Resources or follow-through on discovered violations by that agency or lack of vigor in prosecution … by the Department of Justice, but the general public deserves answers,” said Meyer, a former DNR secretary.

DNR spokesman Andrew Savagian said in an email that the DNR tries to resolve infractions first by educating violators. He noted the agency made 35 referrals to DOJ in 2013, 35 in 2014 and 39 in 2015.

Savagian added that the agency’s environmental enforcement positions are currently fully staffed and it has plans to hire another enforcement specialist and seven investigators to handle complex cases.

DOJ spokesman Johnny Koremenos said in an email that the total amount of penalties don’t tell “the full story” about how the department ensures environmental violations are resolved, noting that some cases end with violators agreeing to undertake environmentally beneficial projects. Asked how many cases end short of financial penalties, Koremenos said the agency doesn’t keep a running tally.

The federation is a group of hunters, anglers, trappers and others who work to sustain hunting, fishing and shooting sports for the future.

Union, NFL at odds over personal conduct policy

Saying the NFL is “making things up as they go along,” players’ union chief DeMaurice Smith wants the league and its owners to take disciplining players out of the hands of Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Already at odds over the process used to punish Ray Rice, the dispute heightened this week when the league suspended Vikings running back Adrian Peterson for the rest of the season for using a wooden switch to discipline his 4-year-old son.

The central issue remains the same for both sides: Finding a way to fairly hold players accountable for transgressions that damage the credibility and image of the league and its players. The union wants disciplinary power now held by Goodell to be handled by a neutral arbitrator. The league, so far, doesn’t agree.

And while both the league and the NFL Players Association want to change the personal conduct policy, the sides disagree on how to do it. The union wants to bargain for changes to the policy, while the NFL wants to implement changes with union input the same way it changes rules on the field, like when it moved kickoffs to the 35-yard line. 

Smith told The Associated Press in an email that the league indicated it was open to discussing the policy as recently as two months ago, but didn’t follow through in coming to the table. He said those discussions were distinct from the union representing Peterson in his case, though on a parallel track. 

“There is one fact that does make those things similar though, and that is the NFL is clearly making things up as they go along,” Smith said Tuesday night. “Our goal is to pursue a new personal conduct policy that is fair, transparent and consistent. The only way that happens is if the NFL and the owners commit to collective bargaining.”

Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, countered that Goodell’s authority was collectively bargained with the union in 2011, while the personal conduct policy in place nearly 20 years has never been part of contract negotiations.

“The union agreed to the Commissioner maintaining authority to discipline. The league believes it is in the best interest of football to retain that authority,” Vincent said. “The league is following the process dictated by the CBA.”

The union and players helped revise the personal conduct policy in 2007, Vincent said. He said the league has had multiple meetings with the union this year on revising the policy using the same approach.

The rules in place now have some players and agents wondering if the NFL has too much power and whether the union fell short by agreeing to give Goodell central power over discipline in 2011.

Agent Jerrold Colton, who represents four-time All-Pro tackle Jahri Evans of the Saints, Steelers cornerback William Gay and six-time Pro Bowl kicker David Akers, said the union’s failure to negotiate changes to the personal conduct policy in 2011 was a “tremendous oversight.”

“I felt strongly at the time that it was a mistake and clearly it’s turned out to be one for the players the way it’s played out and we’re stuck with it for another six years,” said Colton, who said he thinks the players and league absolutely need an independent, third-party arbitrator. “Due process exists in most places in the United States except in the NFL.”

Pittsburgh Steelers safety Mike Mitchell said the personal conduct policy needs more well-defined terms and clear guidelines based on precedent.

“Right now it’s kind of you know, one man has all the power and I don’t know if that’s ever really a good thing. I think Roger does his best to do the best that he can but I know he’s got a lot on his plate that he has to control,” Mitchell said. “I’m not just trying to bash him or come down on him but I think players would feel better if he wasn’t just judge, jury and executioner.”

Peterson pleaded no contest Nov. 4 to misdemeanor reckless assault in Texas for injuries to his 4-year-old son with a wooden switch. He said he intended no harm, only discipline.

Goodell told Peterson he will not be considered for reinstatement before April 15 for his violation of the personal conduct policy — the first example of a crackdown on players involved with domestic violence since stricter rules were put in place earlier this season.  

The union, which announced it plans an appeal on behalf of Peterson, is demanding a neutral arbitrator oversee the hearing in the same way Rice’s case was handled. Rice is waiting for an arbirtrator to decide whether his indefinite suspension should be upheld or overturned. Goodell made Rice’s suspension more severe when video of Rice hitting his then-fiancee was released online.

Goodell has said he hopes to have a new personal conduct policy ready before the Super Bowl.

Vincent said the league’s internal process _ including investigation, consulting independent experts, suspending players with pay and ultimately determining discipline _ has been fair and transparent while following the collective bargaining agreement.

“In reality, those who are most upset with the personal conduct policy are those who violate it,” Vincent said. “The vast majority of players do not come into contact with the discipline process.”

Miami Dolphins defensive lineman Jared Odrick said he disagreed with Peterson’s punishment by the NFL, saying it showed how much scrutiny NFL players face over personal actions.

“It’s great and unfortunate that we’re at the forefront of America showing how to do good and bad. It’s a responsibility placed on us,” he said.

AP Pro Football Writer Dave Campbell and AP Sports Writers Will Graves and Steven Wine contributed to this report.