Another Hendry County monkey farm under investigation
By Amy Bennett Williams, News-Press.com, April 21, 2015
Hendry County is investigating a second primate facility for possibly violating its agricultural zoning.
The Haman Ranch, a secretive satellite of the Homestead-based nonprofit Mannheimer Foundation, has until April 28 to tell county officials what it's doing with the thousands of primates at its facility.
Mandatory annual USDA reports show Mannheimer's activities "appears to include research, experiments or tests on animals," which don't fit with its permitted land use.
However, because it has another location in Miami-Dade County, Hendry wants it to clarify what happens at each place.
"The reports make no differentiation, so we're just requesting they explain that to us," said county spokeswoman Electa Waddell. The Mannheimer Foundation has yet to respond, she said, nor has it returned repeated calls and emails from The News-Press requesting comment.
In March, the county issued a similar complaint against Primate Products, a private firm nearImmokalee, which is still pending. Last week, president Jeff Rowell sent a two-page response to the county strongly defending his company's work as ethical, humane and closely overseen by government agencies.
Waddell said after the county opened the Primate Products investigation, it decided to look at Mannheimer as well. "It was just due diligence," she said.
Granted tax-exempt status in 1969, Mannheimer has no website and publicly available information about it is scarce. In 2014, it told the USDA it had some 4,300 primates at its two locations, primarily macaque monkeys as well as some 400 baboons. In 2013 (the last year for which its IRS returns are on file), it reported paying CEO Joseph L. Wagner $224,382 annually and having assets of $38.3 million.
"Primate experimentation can be a tremendous moneymaker," said Ohio animal activist Michael Budkie, whose nonprofit Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! works to end lab animal abuse.
Budkie applauds Hendry for its "firmness and consistency. We should have more county administrations across country like that," he says. "It's exactly what needs to happen and I hope the county throws the book at them."
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