Primate Facility Could Face Federal Penalties

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Primate Facility Could Face Federal Penalties

From, Tuesday, December 12, 2014 

A primate research facility near Alice could face federal penalties. A total of 13 animals died at the facility earlier this year.

Covance Research Products is one of the two facilities near the town of Alice. The product they provide for research and testing is monkeys.

When CHANNEL 5 NEWS checked government records in October, the company had a clean inspection history dating back to 2012. Those records did not reflect the deadly conditions inside.

From outside the facility the day CHANNEL 5 NEWS visited, most of the cages at the site were empty. The last official count in August showed there were more than 150 monkeys on-site.
A spokesperson told a CHANNEL 5 NEWS crew they would not be allowed inside, but we may now know the reason why.

Federal inspectors said around the time the news crew visited in October, 11 animals died in an overheated building. The company blames a faulty thermostat.

Two other animals had died from the same problem the month before in September.

Michael Budkie heads a group called Stop Animal Exploitation Now and he follows Covance closely.

He said, “Heating system malfunctions literally cooked non-human primates alive at the Covance facility there in Texas. We want to make sure that this never happens again.”

The company said the use of monkeys for research is necessary to help treat or cure diseases and reduce human suffering.

“Well, of course, a company like Covance is going to say what they do is necessary, because that's how they make their money. The reality is, especially in the case of keeping primates in captivity, it's simply not possible to do it humanely,” said Budkie.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture regulates primate housing and research facilities through the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

A spokesperson said the agency is considering what actions should be taken. Inspectors do not know how hot the temperature rose in the rooms. Records indicate rooms housing primates cannot get hotter than about 85 degrees for more than four consecutive hours.

Covance has released a statement which stated the Alice facility will be manually monitored until it adds electronic temperature monitoring and alerts.

It also stated, "Covance takes very seriously our ethical and regulatory responsibilities to treat research animals with the utmost care and respect.”

Budkie and his group are pushing the federal government to give the company the maximum possible fine of $130,000.
The USDA said it must review Covance's compliance history before determining whether to penalize the company. They said the penalties could range from a letter of warning to a fine.

Officials could even take the case to an administrative judge and try to suspend or revoke the Alice facility's operating license.

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