A federal complaint alleges an Everett-based laboratory has repeatedly violated the federal animal-welfare law, citing the deaths of 38 primates.
An Everett-based medical testing laboratory is alleged to have repeatedly violated the Animal Welfare Act in actions that resulted in the deaths of 38 primates, according to a complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The nine-page complaint lays out the government’s case against SNBL USA, which operates a breeding and research facility at its Everett headquarters, and at a second facility in Alice, Texas.
The complaint alleges that the “gravity of violations … is great,” and occurred over a number of years. Despite repeatedly being advised of violations, the complaint alleges that SNBL has “continued to fail to meet” the minimum standards of the federal Animal Welfare Act, the complaint states.
The complaint will be heard by an administrative-law judge and could result in financial or other penalties. It was filed by the USDA on Sept. 26 but not made public until this month.
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Steven Glaza, SNBL’s executive vice president, confirmed in a written statement that the company has received the complaint.
“We take these allegations seriously and are fully cooperating with the USDA to ensure that we are in complete compliance. This is everyone’s priority,” he said.
Glaza said the company is “committed to the humane, ethical and appropriate care of all animals,” and that it conducts “federally-mandated pharmaceutical studies that contribute research cures to some of the most devastating diseases around the world.”
The Animal Welfare Act was passed by Congress in 1966 and lays out the standards for their treatment in research, exhibition, transport and by dealers. The law is enforced by the USDA, which makes periodic inspections of research facilities.
The incidents cited in the federal complaint include:
• The Sept. 9 2010, strangulation of a primate that died after becoming entangled in a cable and a Dec. 26, 2011, incident in which a 6-week old primate died after escaping its enclosure and becoming trapped in a fence.
• The December 2013 deaths of 25 macaque monkeys during shipment from Asia to U.S. facilities in Everett and Alice, Texas. In Houston, despite observing that some animals were thirsty, ill or in physical distress, they were shipped on to their final destinations rather than provided with veterinary care, the complaint alleges.
• The May 2016 deaths of six macaques during liver biopsy procedures performed by personnel that were “inadequately trained.”
SNBL is a subsidiary of Japan-based Shin Nippon Biomedical Laboratories and is involved in both contract research and sales. The SNBL website states the corporation operates breeding facilities worldwide and has access to more than 40,000 animals.
In the United States, SNBL reported selling 1,384 animals for more than $5 million in gross revenue and using an additional 2,891 for research.
The company’s care of animals has repeatedly come under attack from animal-rights groups, including the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which has publicized whistleblower accounts of mistreatment, including a 2008 incident when a monkey died after mistakenly being put in a high-temperature washer.
“SBNL is a serial violator of animal-protection regulation,” said Alka Chandna, a laboratory-oversight specialist with PETA. “They just can’t be trusted to cage them, much less do experiments.”
If violations are found, the USDA can issue warnings or reach agreement with companies for stipulated fines. SNBL paid a $36,852 penalty in 2006 and a $12,937 penalty in 2009.
Much more infrequently, the USDA can issue civil complaints that are then taken before an administrative judge. These actions can result in financial penalties as well as — in rare instances — the loss of the license a company must have to sell animals.
“It is completely up to the administrative-law judge. They can assess a monetary penalty as well as suspend or revoke licenses,” said Tanya Espinosa, a spokeswoman for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
In the United States, SNBL business includes work for the federal government, including a $2.2 million contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services signed in July.
Federal contractors are required to comply with the Animal Welfare Act in the care and use of laboratory animals.