Protest filed against Everett company that tests on monkeys

EVERETT — Dead monkeys have animal-rights activists again targeting an Everett company that tests drugs on primates.

Stop Animal Exploitation Now, an Ohio-based group that fights animal abuse in laboratory testing, filed a complaint Monday against SNBL USA, which performs pharmaceutical research on primates at facilities in Everett and Alice, Texas.

SAEN Executive Director Michael Budkie wants the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fine the company under the Animal Welfare Act.

“This is a professional activist,” SNBL’s Vice President of Business Development Mark Crane said. “This is one of those people who doesn’t want animals tested at all.”

SAEN asked the feds to sanction the company in 2008. It complained again in June, contending that documents obtained through a public records request detail nearly 40 monkey deaths over the past two years. According to the group, the causes included emaciation, hypothermia, hyperthermia and disease.

“Obviously, they have some staff that isn’t overly qualified,” Budkie said. “When you’re killing animals that’s not supportive of their care.”

SNBL President and CEO Tom Beck said claims of negligence on the part of the company’s animal caretakers remain unfounded.

“They have a great respect for these animals,” Beck said.

Federal inspectors in July examined SNBL operations. The agency determined two monkeys had died of hyperthermia — or overheating — because of stressful capture techniques used at the company’s Alice, Texas, operation. The USDA recommended SNBL change its practices when trying to capture monkeys in their cages.

Crane pointed to SNBL’s stamp of approval from the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care as evidence of the company’s existing ethical research practices.

Still, he said, SNBL has learned from the deaths and has changed its capture procedures. Animal caretakers now only capture primates when the temperature is below 85 degrees to prevent overheating. Additionally, SNBL is improving its Texas facilities by adding tunnels to buildings to eliminate the need to capture animals with nets altogether, he said.

“This tunnel system is less stressful for the animals and frankly it’s easier for us,” Crane said.

“We’re in the business of keeping animals happy and healthy,” he said.

Despite the changes, Budkie said, he will continue his efforts to inform the public of what goes on inside animal research laboratories.

“Ideally, these places should be closed,” he said.

Budkie in 2008 focused attention on SNBL in Everett after a monkey died when it was not removed from a cage that was being sterilized. The USDA did not sanction the company over the incident. SNBL also faced related complaints from the Pasado’s Safe Haven in 2008.

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; anile@heraldnet.com.

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