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Articles and Reports

Cheri Stevens Statement: California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC)

Witnessed Animal Abuse

On several occasions I witnessed a lack of concern for an animal’s wellbeing by co-workers, and at times it was blatant abuse. Two specific employees come to mind whose stories I will tell but their names will remain anonymous for the purpose of this paper.

Co-worker A was known for making trouble and harassing animals and co-workers. Everything was a joke to this person and I remember being frustrated working with him because of his lack of concern during preventative heath round-ups. I witnessed him skin an animal's inner thigh with an electric razor and show no concern for the matter. This person brushed it off as if the blood and the pain the animal would feel when they woke up was not a matter for concern. I had to tell them to take the animal to therapeutics to receive the antibiotic ointment to lessen the chance of infection because animal cages are only clean for about 10 minutes after they’ve been hosed out creating the possibility for infection. This led to a verbal confrontation in which I held my ground to ensure that the animal was treated with the respect it deserved.

This person is also responsible for the animal that went missing and supposedly went into the drain in the floor. I cannot speak specifically to what went on for sure in that room. All I can say is that a thorough search for the remains of the animal was done in the entire pipeline of the CNPRC. They found syringes, needles, some trash, and various metal objects, but not a single animal bone. I can also say that it is unnatural for a primate to use burrowing as a form of escape, primates are climbers. I don’t know what happened in the room that day, but I do not believe the story I have been told. I have a difficult time believing the juvenile primate was out of its cage by accident, knowing that the crew this person worked on would purposely let animals loose in the room so that they could catch them, for fun.

The same person managed to train an animal to masturbate against its own leg and arm on command with repeating “show me what you got.” This employee did this on a regular basis and would show the new people because he thought it was hilarious.

Co-worker B was more of a physical abuser of the animals. On several occasions I witnessed unnecessary roughness and extreme force being used to manipulate an animal into the positions that were necessary for him to complete intended procedures. A particular incident I can specifically recall led me to report this abuse, and not for the first time, to my supervisor. I was performing my daily husbandry tasks when Co-worker B entered the room to move animals around for the purposes of breeding. He went to a male's cage to remove the female who was hiding behind the male. Co-worker B reached around the door and slapped the primate right on his head, right in front of me. The animal was not aggressive before or after the attack but for some reason this co-worker felt it necessary to repeat the abusive action. Again the animal did not react aggressively, rather stunned. This left me with a sinking feeling in my chest and I reported it to my supervisor because this was not the first time I had seen this employee behave this way.

More than one time I witnessed him use extreme force and the squeeze cage to put a primate into the position needed to perform an experimental task. He would literally slam the back of the cage into the front of the cage with the animal trapped in the middle. Many times he was very aggressive in his verbal approach to animals causing them to also behave aggressively and at the very least grimace in his presence.

Both of these employees were employed still at CNPRC at the time of my resignation and I believe they are currently employed there. One of them has their employment backed by the fact that he works directly for his uncle. I witnessed this create a conflict of interest when dealing with disciplinary actions needed to ensure that all employees are behaving within the realm of respect for other employees and the animals housed at the CNPRC.

I have been asked if I witnessed animals being abused by researchers and investigators. What I can say to that is, for the most part the animals were tested behind doors. I had the opportunity to observe a few tests being conducted and the researchers that I observed were very caring towards the animals. It is my experience that animals will only work when they want to and for who they want to. You have to cooperate with an animal if you want it to cooperate with you.

There was just one incident where I recall actually witnessing an investigator harassing an animal. He was in an animal room that I was responsible for and was shaking the cage of a male primate until he became aggressive. They went back and forth like this for a minute until I entered the room which startled the investigator. I reported the incident to my supervisor. I can recall a physical description but not a name of the investigator.

Go on to
Primate Behavior at CNPRC
Return to
Cheri Stevens Statement: California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC)
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