EVERETT — Dozens of dead monkeys in a span of three years have spurred federal scrutiny of a company that tests pharmaceutical drugs on animals.
The Japanese-owned Shin Nippon Biomedical Laboratories uses monkeys, dogs, rabbits, pigs and rodents to study the effects of drugs at its U.S. headquarters in Everett. Up to 2,000 monkeys are housed in labs tucked behind tall trees and security fencing along Seaway Boulevard. SNBL also breeds monkeys in Alice, Texas.
The company helps develop drugs aimed at advancing human medicine and saving lives, said Vice President of Business Development Mark CQCrane. It studies vaccines, cancer medicines and gene therapies.
Animal testing is required before pharmaceuticals can be given to people. Crane said expensive research animals are well cared for because it reduces business costs and avoids health problems that could be linked to the drugs. “We don’t want to sacrifice these animals needlessly,” he said.
The most recent complaint against SNBL comes from an Ohio activist who has been fighting for two decades to end all animal experimentation. Michael Budkie, of Stop Animal Exploitation Now, is accusing the company of negligence, citing 34 deaths of monkeys in SNBL’s care but outside of its research since 2013.
USDA inspectors blamed an October fatality on understaffing in Everett. A monkey was strangled when its neck got caught in a cage. In response, the company reassigned workers.
“We never take these things lightly,” Executive Vice President Steve Glaza said. “If there’s something we can do better, we’re going to do it.”
The company also made changes aimed at preventing deaths in 2013. The measures came after 25 monkeys died from dehydration that apparently occurred during shipping to Everett labs. At the breeding site, two became overheated and died after being chased and caught by caretakers. Six other fatalities likely were the result of monkeys being bitten, scratched or injured while fighting for dominance in groups.
Investigators now are examining animal welfare at SNBL. Once their work is complete, the USDA could issue a warning, fine the company or turn the case over to federal judges for penalties, including suspension or revocation of its breeding licence. There is no timeline for when the review will be complete.
“We want to make sure we are as thorough as possible,” USDA spokeswoman Tanya Espinosa said.