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Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!
S. A. E. N.
"Exposing the truth to wipe out animal experimentation"

Media Coverage

Group says UCD center mistreats monkeys

By Carrie Peyton Dahlberg - Bee Staff Writer
October 13, 2006

An animal rights group has filed a complaint with federal regulators against UC Davis' primate lab, alleging animals are underfed, poorly cared for and sometimes handled too roughly.

Dallas Hyde, director of the California National Primate Research Center, described many of the allegations as "just downright false"
but said he has asked a special committee to investigate and issue a public report as soon as possible.

An Ohio-based group called Stop Animal Exploitation Now e-mailed its complaint Wednesday evening to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, asking for an official investigation.

The group reviewed close to 600 postmortem exams, called necropsies, of monkeys at the primate center over three years and concluded that at least a third of the adults were emaciated, dehydrated or showed other symptoms of stress and poor care, founder Michael Budkie said.

In addition, it relied on information from Cheri Stevens, a former lab worker who said animals frequently mauled each other in fights and didn't get enough fruits and vegetables during the three years before she quit in 2005.

Jenny Short, an assistant director at the center, said monkeys do commonly lose a fingertip in fights, but they're such social creatures that overall, they're still better off housed in groups than alone.

Fruits and vegetables are rationed, Short added, because otherwise monkeys would fill up on them and spurn their chow, which has protein, fats and minerals the animals need.

Stevens' allegations disappointed and angered primate center staffers, Hyde said, adding that vets at the center work hard to ensure the animals stay healthy.

Founded in the 1960s, UC Davis' primate center houses about 5,000 animals, most of them cat-sized rhesus macaque, and the rest two smaller and longer-tailed species, the cynomolgus macaque and the titi monkey.

They're used to study asthma, Parkinson's disease, AIDS, stem cell biology and a wide range of other biological processes ranging from behavior to vaccine response.

The center's primates were among those used in testing a drug, now undergoing clinical trials, aimed at preventing mothers with AIDS from spreading it to their babies, Hyde said.

He could remember just two other complaints about UC Davis' primate handling in the past six years, both in 2004.

As he recalled, one alleging inadequate veterinary care was found to be baseless, but the other resulted in a fine after seven monkeys died from overheating caused by a ventilator failure.

In late 2005, the university announced it was paying the fine of
$4,815 for allowing a room where monkeys were housed to reach 115 degrees.

While the USDA oversees hundreds of labs, its Western region received only 12 public complaints about research facilities in fiscal 2006, agency spokesman Jim Rogers said.

He wasn't immediately able to give specifics.

In general, the agency's follow-up to complaints can involve anything from a phone call to a formal investigation, Rogers said.


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