In March, a New Mexico judge dismissed three misdemeanor animal cruelty charges against employees of Charles River Laboratories.
The charges stemmed from the 2002 deaths of two chimpanzees and the near death of a third chimpanzee at a Charles River Laboratories primate facility in Alamogordo , New Mexico.
In all three cases, veterinarians looked after the animals and then left the facility, instructing security guards to monitor the animals’ condition overnight. The security guards had no veterinary training.
The misdemeanor charges alleged that this constituted animal cruelty, but State District Judge Jerry Ritter ruled that since the deaths of the animals occurred in the practice of veterinary medicine, the animal cruelty statutes did not apply.
In Defense of Animals complained that this was a “technicality” although it seems exactly the sort of situation the veterinary medicine exemption was intended to avoid — clogging up the courts with claims of animal cruelty based on differing opinions about appropriate veterinary care procedures would be a serious misallocation of law enforcement resources.
IDA’s Elliott Katz said in a press release,
We now know that for Charles River and the NIH, the ‘practice of veterinary medicine’ constitutes intentional and repeated abandonment of critically ill chimpanzees to once-per-hour observation by security guards.
New Mexico Judge Dismisses Animal Cruelty Charges Against NIH Chimp Lab Operator on Legal Technicality. Press Release, In Defense of Animals, March 30, 2005.
Animal Cruelty Charges Dropped. Rene Romo, Albuquerque Journal, March 29, 2005.
Cruelty charges dropped against Charles River Labs. Christopher Rowland, The Boston Globe, March 29, 2005.