Congress Members Ask HHS to Investigate Primate Breeding Facility

Jun 26, 2015

  UPDATE: 

A representative from the National Institutes of Health wrote in an email HHS is currently investigating Primate Products.  

None of the Congress members who signed the letter accepted requests for an interview.  

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Primate Products President Thomas Rowell said today a subdivision of Health and Human Services is already looking into the company.

That’s because the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare or OLAW sent Primate Products a list of allegations more than three weeks ago.  OLAW is an office within the National Institutes of Health, which is part of Health and Human Services. 

“I think in a sense this is kind of redundant,” Rowell said about the letter.

He said the company plans to respond to OLAW’s query this week. 

“Basically, it’s the list of allegations that the PETA informant made while she was employed,” he said.

Rowell said the list of requirements to come back into compliance with the Animal Welfare Act under the USDA’s investigation have been met except for one. They expect to complete that requirement by its end of July deadline.

He also said the number of violations mentioned in the letter is incorrect. Rowell said there are a total of nine. USDA documents first provided to the News-Press also show a total of nine violations.

An HHS representative referred WGCU to NIH. NIH has yet to respond to questions about the investigation. 

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Members of Congress sent a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell Friday, asking her to investigate the treatment of animals at a Hendry County-based primate breeding facility.

Primate Products, Inc. sells primates for behavioral, psychological and medical research. It’s currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture over findings of noncompliance with the Animal Welfare Act.

The USDA initially investigated the company after a member of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals secretly recorded practices at the facility while working there for eight months until late May.

The video appeared to show animals huddling together for warmth and being roughly handled by workers – among other things.

U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch, Alcee Hastings and Lois Frankel wrote in the letter that Primate Products has received in excess of $13 million from agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense.

In the letter, the Florida Democratic representatives asked that HHS “conduct its own inquiry into possible animal abuse at PPI, and review your contracts with the company to determine whether action should be taken pending the results of the USDA’s investigation.” 

Primate Products is one of four such facilities either operating or being built in Hendry County. Animal activists and locals have protested the facilities in recent months over concerns about the animals' treatment.

The attention has also caused Hendry County to investigate Primate Products and another company – the Mannheimer Foundation – over possible violations of their agriculture permits.

Read the letter sent to HHS: