Judge Dismissed Cruelty Charges Against Charles River Laboratories

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.

New Mexico Hounded Father for Support for Non-Existent Child

In December, Wendy McElroy wrote about one of the strangest cases of child support gone awry in a case where a man was hounded by the state of New Mexico to support a child that didn’t actually exist.

Viola Trevino essentially invented a child that did not exist and claimed that Steve Barras was the father. Barreras denied being the father, but ended up paying $20,000 in child support before the fraud was exposed.

Trevino went to extreme lengths to pull off her fraud. She filed a false paternity test using a DNA sample from an adult daughter of Berreras, and enlisted a friend of hers who worked at a lab to process it. Based on the results of the fraudulent paternity test she obtained a court order for child support.

Trevino went on to obtain a Social Security card, Medicare card and a birth certificate for the invented child.

Barreras repeatedly told New Mexico’s child services that he couldn’t possibly be the father of Trevino’s child because he had a vasectomy years prior to the child’s birth and tests showed a zero sperm count. New Mexico authorities basically ignored him when he tried to tell them that the child did nto exist, with one worker telling him, “your daughter does exist, as I am sure you already knew.”

Only after Barreras hired a private investigator and New Mexico TV station KOBTV did a report on Trevino’s case was Trevino finally ordered to produce her now allegedly 5-year-old daughter in court.

On the day of that hearing, Trevino snatched a 2-year-old girl from her grandmother and tried to pass the girl off in court as her daughter.

McElroy reports that New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has asked the state’s Human Services Department for an investigation and report on how this fraud was allowed to go on for so long.

Obviously Barreras case is an extreme example, but that fact that Trevino could pull of this sort of fraud for 5 years whille Trevino’s pleas that he couldn’t possibly be the father are indicative of just how broken the system is.


Agency culpable in child support scam. Wendy McElroy, Fox News, December 14, 2004.

HSUS Wants Filmmakers to Boycott New Mexico

The Humane Society of the United States purchased a number of ads in the Sundance Film Festival Insider, the film festival’s daily program, urging filmmakers to stop making movies in New Mexico until the state bans cockfighting.

The text of the ad warns filmmakers that, “In New Mexico, ‘Entertainment’ Includes Watching Animals Fight to the Death.”

Currently about four major films are scheduled for shooting in New Mexico, and Governor Bill Richardson called HSUS’ tactic immature, according to the Associated Press.


NM cockfighting ban debate sparks boycott ads in Utah, citations in Idaho. Associated Press, January 25, 2005.

The HSUS Appeals to Filmmakers at Sundance for Support on N.M. Cockfighting Ban. Press Release, Humane Society of the United States, January 20, 2005.

Uncooperative Weather Keeps Wolves Killed in Alaska to 51

A combination of weather factors limited the number of wolves killed as part of Alaska’s aerial control program this winter. As of January 9, only 51 wolves had been killing according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

During last year’s aerial wolf hunt, hunters in Alaska killed 144 wolves.

Bruce Bartely, information officer for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game told the Fairbanks Daily News Miner,

It’s probably down from what we’d like to see but given the circumstances it’s probably the best we could hope for.

The state plans to mail out additional permits at the end of January for pilots and hunters in an effort to reduce by about 500 the number of wolves in five regions.


Aerial hunters foiled in pursuit of wolves. Tim Mowry, Fairbanks Daily Miner, January 8, 2005.

PETA, HSUS to Focus on Cockfighting Bans in Lousiana, New Mexico

With the recent Supreme Court decision that ended two years of efforts to overturn Oklahoma’s cock-fighting ban, and the defeat of a pro-cockfighting politician in Louisiana, the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals look to focus on enacting bans in Louisiana and New Mexico, the last two states in the United States where cockfighting is allowed.

PETA is focusing on New Mexico. In a press conference with Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez and actress Rue McClanahan, PETA’s Dan Mathews said,

Yes. Absolutely. We are targeting New Mexico.

Over the past few years, New Mexico has become a hot spot for filming Hollywood productios and Mathews hopes to convince producers to avoid the state until a ban on cockfighying is passed.

Cockfighting is already banned in 13 of New Mexico’s 33 counties, and in 29 of its cities, including Albuquerque. A proposed ban on cockfighting passed New Mexico’s state house earlier this year, but couldn’t get out of committee in the state Senate.

PETA wants the state to take up a cockfighting ban during its 60-day session that begins in Jaunuary. According to the Albuqurque Journal, a poll it took thsi summer found that two-thirds of registered voters supported a ban on cockfighting.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, however, remains non-committal on a ban, with his spokesman telling the Albuquerque Journal,

Cockfighting is already banned in the majority of counties and municipalities. The governor is willing to discuss and consider any legislative measure after a full and thorough debate on all sides.

Meanwhile, HSUS is looking to push a ban in Louisiana, where its political action committee spent $250,000 in advertising against a pro-cockfighting candidate for U.S. Senate. HSUS’s Wayne Pacelle was quoted in The Guardian (UK) as saying,

We intend to eradicate this cruel, barbaric practice. My advice to anyone moving to Louisiana thinking it’s a cockfighting refuge is not to unpack their bags — it’s going to be a very short stay.


PETA targets NM film industry over cockfighting. Dennis Domrzalski, New Mexico Business Weekly, November 15, 2004.

Cockfight ban gets TV star’s support. Kate Nash, Albuquerque Journal, November 16, 2004.

Final battle to rid the US of ‘barbaric’ cockfighting. Richard Luscombe, The Observor, November 21, 2004.

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.


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.