Everett research lab fined $185,000 in deaths of 38 monkeys

EVERETT — Research lab SNBL USA has agreed to pay a $185,000 fine over a federal complaint that 38 monkeys have died in the company’s care over a five-year period.

The company, which has a research and breeding facility in Everett, reached the settlement Dec. 2 with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“The allegations in the USDA complaint relate to issues that SNBL either self-reported to the USDA or that were discovered during routine USDA facility inspections, and all such issues have been resolved,” the company said in a statement.

SNBL also will have its license suspended for 30 days starting Dec. 22. The suspension will continue until federal inspectors visit SNBL’s facilities and agree that the company is complying with the federal Animal Welfare Act, which regulates the treatment of animals in research and exhibition.

The company conducts research into future disease treatments for human use, and its focus includes leukemia and muscular dystrophy.

The Animal Welfare Institute, a nonprofit animal-rights group in Washington, D.C., denounced the settlement as too small.

“Not only is the financial penalty tiny for a business whose parent company has a market value of nearly $200 million, but the short-lived suspension overlaps with the holiday season — when operations are traditionally slow, anyway,” said Cathy Liss, the institute’s president, in a statement. “Thus, the USDA is providing no forceful repercussions that would induce SNBL or other such entities to comply with the law.”

She also noted that the settlement calls for federal inspectors to make scheduled appointments with SNBL’s facilities in Everett and Alice, Texas. Traditionally, those inspections are made unannounced to prevent facilities from covering up possible violations.

SNBL received the original nine-page complaint from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Oct. 6, alleging a series of violations that occurred between Dec. 26, 2011, and May 4.

The majority of the monkey deaths — 25 of the 38 — happened in October 2013 when the company sent 840 long-tailed macaques from Cambodia, to Houston, Texas.

Upon arrival, SNBL veterinarians observed that that the monkeys were thirsty and appeared weak, thin and in poor shape, according to the complaint.

The company did not provide veterinary care to the macaques, but sent 360 of them to its facility in Alice, Texas and 480 to Everett, the complaint alleges.

Five macaques died before arrival, 17 died or were euthanized shortly after and three more monkeys died in the next five days. The deaths were attributed to organ failure caused by dehydration and hypoglycemia, according to the complaint.

Meanwhile, another animal rights group, the Ohio-based Stop Animal Exploitation Now, on Thursday called for more penalties for SNBL after the deaths of another two monkeys this fall.

In November, the USDA found problems during an earlier routine inspection, documents show. SNBL USA was ordered to make changes.

The inspectors’ concerns with the most recent deaths dealt with how the lab described euthanasia procedures and how staff handled aggressive animals and infant animals.

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