A primate at the SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn was strangled by a chain used to hold its play objects to its cage, according to U.S.D.A inspection documents obtained by Runnin’ Scared. According to those same documents, the laboratory where the monkey was kept has a history of infractions, including improper handling of expired medicines and damaged walls and ceilings.
Ohio-based watchdog group SAEN has filed an official complaint with the U.S.D.A. Animal and Plant Inspection Service, saying that the lab’s failure to adequately protect its animals is a violation of the Animal Welfare Act.
The strangled monkey was noted in a report filed in June by U.S.D.A. inspectors.
“We’re trying to push them to issue a meaningful penalty, which is basically the only thing they can do: issue a fine,” SAEN Executive Director Michael Budkie tells Runnin’ Scared.
This is not the first time the animal lab at Downstate has run afoul of regulators. Documents show that in 2009 the lab was fined $3,250 for ceilings and walls in disrepair. The lab was also fined for not properly disposing of expired medicines and drugs.
If the complaint is taken up the U.S.D.A., it would be adjudicated under the Animal Welfare Act, the only law on the books designed to protect research animals (Runnin’ Scared could not contact the U.S.D.A for comment because its website and contact information are unavailable due to the Federal government shutdown.)
But the Animal Welfare Act is largely toothless. The maximum punishment under the act is a $10,000 fine per infraction.
“No matter how bad a laboratory is, the U.S.D.A. does not have the authority to close them down,” explains Dudkie.
SAEN’s complaint comes two weeks ahead of its “Primate Liberation Week,” during which protesters across the country will picket in front of facilities using primates in research facilities. They will stop in New York to protest at the corporate offices of Air France, a company it claims is the “most visible culprit in the disgusting international primate air-trafficking mafia,” referring to the company’s role in shipping the animals from their native Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.
At this time, SAEN has no plans to rally at SUNY Downstate.
Anna Merlan contributed reporting.
Click through to read the 2009 and 2013 inspection reports from the U.S.D.A.
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