Animal rights group calls for investigation of Alice research facility after monkey deaths

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Animal rights group calls for investigation of Alice research facility after monkey deaths

By Steven Alford,, Tuesday,  April 24, 2012e

A watchdog group opposing laboratory research on animals is calling for an investigation into an Alice facility where three monkeys died two years ago.

Representatives from Stop Animal Exploitation Now uncovered records from the University of Washington  that show two monkeys died from a form of tuberculosis  in 2010 while another died of goat polio .

"We're insisting these deaths be looked at very seriously and very quickly," said Michael Budkie, executive director of the watchdog group.

Budkie wants to know how the monkeys contracted the diseases and whether other primates or humans have been exposed in the two years since.

The findings have dangerous implications for nonhuman primates as well as humans, he said.

The group sent letters Monday requesting inquiries by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state's health department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Opened in 2007, the SNBL USA lab is located just southwest of Alice on Farm-to-Market Road 625.

A company spokesman said staff contacted the state's health department, standard procedure after a monkey's death.

"We screen all the animals for this on a regular basis to protect the animals there as well as our staff," said David Reim, director of laboratory animal resources for SNBL USA Inc.

The animals were obtained from a breeder in Indonesia, Reim said, where it is believed the monkeys contracted the diseases. He said it is rare for primates in captivity to contract tuberculosis.

"We are ready to comply and will fully cooperate with any inspections," he said.

Company officials said precautionary measures, including protective clothing and respiratory devices for laboratory staff, limit the chance of any diseases spreading.

In November, the same watchdog group filed federal complaints claiming mistreatment of monkeys at another Alice facility owned by a different company, Covance. More than a dozen primates sent to various laboratories from the facility were found with life-threatening injuries, the complaints alleged.

The watchdog group obtained the postmortem documents of the SNBL primates last year, within thousands of pages of documents obtained from the University of Washington through an open records request, Budkie said.

University scientists had been working with SNBL officials through primate research. The company has its headquarters in the Seattle area. Its parent company, Shin Nippon Biomedical Laboratories, is based in Japan.

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