USDA cites transport company in chimp's '11 death

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USDA cites transport company in chimp's '11 death

From The, Thursday, February 21, 2013

An Opelousas transport company has received a warning citation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the handling of a research chimpanzee that died while being shipped from a research facility in Maryland to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's research center in New Iberia.

Jeffrey Quebedeaux, who operates Stone Oaks Farms and Transports, received an "official warning" dated Jan. 23 from the USDA for a violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act in the handling of the chimp and three others in May 2011.

A Maryland research facility, Bioqual, Inc., also received a warning last month from the USDA for violations related to the shipment of the research animals.

Quebedeaux could not be reached for comment. Dr. Mark Lewis, president and director of research for Bioqual, told The Daily Advertiser Thursday that the violations were related to paperwork and did not cause the death of the animal.

"This has nothing to do with the death," Lewis said. "It's about paperwork. All I know (about the death) is that they thought it might have been a heart attack or stress-induced."

An animal rights group, Stop Animal Exploitation Now, based in Ohio, called the warnings "slaps on the wrist" for multiple violations and questioned why the companies did not receive harsher penalties. The companies could have faced fines up to $10,000 per violation.

"They didn't even give these companies a fine," said Michael Budkie, executive director of SAEN. "An animal died."

According to the USDA's warning notice, Bioqual "failed to certify" that the four research chimps had been provided with food and water as required for four hours before they were delivered for transport. The facility also failed to provide written instructions for providing food and water for the animals as required for the 24-hour transit period, according to the notice.

Stone Oaks Farms was cited for accepting the animals for transit without receiving certification that the animals had properly been offered food and water.

Lewis said the chimps being transported were owned by the National Institutes of Health, which owns about 350 research chimps across the country. The NIH is considering moving all but about 50 of its research chimps to a federal sanctuary, Chimp Haven, in Keithville in northern Louisiana.

The NIH has already begun transferring 111 chimpanzees from the New Iberia Research Center, which is operated by UL. More than a dozen were transferred to the sanctuary in January, and others are expected to be transferred in coming months.

UL has announced that the New Iberia center no longer uses chimpanzees in research, but federal records indicate the center may have as many as 240 chimpanzees at the facility that are not owned by NIH.

UL spokesman Aaron Martin did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

USDA spokesman David Sacks said the agency believes it responded appropriately to the violations.
"There's different variables involved with each unfortunate incident, such as an animal dying, like here," Sacks said. "I'd stand behind what the agency did in issuing a warning letter."

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