Newsletter - Animal Writes sm
17 October 1999  Issue

By Michelle A. Rivera, [email protected]

Here is a story of love and betrayal. A story of how a person's trust can be misplaced. What would you think if this were YOUR pets?

Once upon a time, in the early sixties, in a town called Toms River, New Jersey, lived an animal-loving eccentric by the name of Hans Mannheimer. The inventor of tearless baby shampoo, and the "Johnny Mop", Hans was a multimillionaire. What made him just a little outlandish, however, was that he had a deep infatuation with primates, especially gibbons and chimpanzees. Over a span of about ten years, Mannheimer acquired over 200 animals from animal dealers who snatched them from their native homes in Asia and Africa and sold them to research labs, circuses, zoos and collectors such as Mannheimer.

The thing is, even though we know that animal hoarders are people who need a lot of psychological intervention, Hans Mannheimer truly "loved" his animals. He fed them a diet of fresh fruits and produce, and took them on boat rides around Toms River Harbor. He had the best caregivers money could buy, and the habitats in which his monkeys lived were better than those in most zoos.

Mannheimer died in 1972 of lung cancer, and the lives of those precious, pampered primates would never be the same.

Hans Mannheimer left the majority of his estate to the Mannheimer Trust, which, in turn, funded the Mannheimer Primatological Foundation. His purpose, by all reports, was to keep his pets comfortable and stable. Because the patents on the shampoo and mop had not yet run out, the fortune continued to grow even after his death.

However, the trustees of this Primatological Foundation were not to be trusted after all. Even though Mannheimer knew and had the utmost confidence in the people he left in charge, the animals were not taken care of in the way Mannheimer expected. In fact, just the opposite.

The animals were moved to a location in Homestead, near Miami, Florida. Their "home" had become a full-fledged research lab, and their "purpose" was changed from pet to lab animals. Not only were they being used for experimentation, but also breeding animals to raise a population for the express purpose of research. According to USDA records, this lab facility has been written up for very cruel experiments.

In a cruel twist of fate, during the height of Hurricane Andrew, over 2,300 of these primates escaped during the storm. These animals were rumored to have AIDS, and orders were given to shoot them on sight. Over 200 of them died having been shot and killed. Eyewitnesses reported that Florida City Police and National Guardsmen were shooting the monkeys out of trees.....making target practice out of them. Of course, we now know that monkeys can't even carry the human AIDS virus. But perhaps death by a shotgun was a better fate than that awaiting them in a research lab.

The Mannheimer Foundation, located at 20255 Southwest 360th Street, Homestead, FL 33034 (305) 245-1551, now claims that they do not actually conduct experimentation, that they only breed animals for that purpose. One has to wonder about the validity of stories told by untrustworthy "trustees".

This story has no happy ending, as the primates are still being abused at this very moment. The only silver lining in all of this came from a very unlikely source, the late Gov. Lawton Chiles. Governor Chiles was an extremely popular governor among Floridians, and he served his state well. Florida animal-rights advocates were a little tired of all his well-publicized hunting and "coon cap" photo shoots, but he did perform one small act of mercy. He vetoed a bill which would give the Mannheimer Foundation $100,000.00 of taxpayer money! In his veto, signed in April, 1998, Gov. Lawton Chiles stated that "The need for state funding of this type of private research effort has not been clearly established".

It's pretty bad when gun-toting politicians are more trustworthy than old friends.

Special Note: Thanks to Nicolas Atwood and the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF) for all the help with this article

The Miami Herald, 10/10/91
The Animals Agenda Nov/Dec 92
1999, Inc.
SunSentinal 9/30/90 and 3/24/96
Letter from Lee Bernstein of the Associated Humane Societies of New Jersey
dated 7/6/84

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