Charles River Laboratories Faces Animal Cruelty Charges

In September a district attorney in New Mexico charged Charles River Laboratories and two of its employees with misdemeanor animal cruelty in the case of three non-human primates which the complaint charges did not receive adequate care at a facility the company managed.

In 2001 Charles River was awarded a 10 year, $42 million contract from the National Institutes of Health to manage the troubled Alamogordo Primate Facility which had previously been managed by the now defunct Coulston Foundation. The Coulston Foundation had turned over ownership of 288 primates at the facility to the NIH as part of settlement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture stemming from violations of the Animal Welfare Act. NIH then contracted with Charles River to manage the facility.

The criminal complaint filed against Charles River alleges that through negligence the company provided inadequate care to two chimpanzees which resulted in their death, and that it provided inadequate care to a third chimpanzee which survived despite a serious injury.

According to the complaint, on Sept. 16, 2002, Charles River employees failed to provide adequate veterinary care to a chimpanzee which had suffered an injury, instead leaving the animal to be monitored by security guards overnight. The animal died as a result of the injury.

Similarly, the complaint alleges that around Dec. 30, 2002, Charles River employees failed to provide adequate veterinary care to a chimpanzee who failed to wake up from anesthesia. Employees allegedly directed security guards to monitor the animal overnight. The chimpanzee died.

Finally, the complaint alleges that around June 26, 2003, Charles River employees again failed to provide adequate veterinary care to an injured chimpanzee, and instead directed security guards to monitor the animal overnight. The animal eventually recovered.

The complaint also notes that three chimpanzees were accidentally electrocuted earlier this year when repairs caused their cage to come in contact with a high voltage electrical circuit.

Charles River denied the charges, saying that in the instance involving alleged neglect, that “veterinarians provided the immediate and appropriate medical attention necessary to the animals, all of whom had underlying health issues because of the diseases to which they had been exposed.”

The criminal complaint names the company itself, as well as its CEO James Foster and the chief veterinarian at the Alamogordo Primate Facility, Dr. Rick Lee.

Conviction on each count of misdemeanor animal cruelty would carry a maximum penalty of up to 364 days in jail and a fine of $1,000.

Sources:

Las Cruces Chimp Lab Facing 3 Cruelty Charges. Rene Romo, Albuquerque Journal, September 8, 2004.

Complaint alleges animal cruelty at federal facility. Christopher Rowland, Boston Globe, September 10, 2004.

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