Case against Primarily Primates tossed out, but president Wally Swett resigns under fire
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2006:
SAN ANTONIO–Bexar County Civil District Court Judge Andy
Mireles on September 8, 2006 ruled that former Ohio State University
chimp caretakers Klaree Boose and Stephany Harris, along with
California veterinarian Mel Richardson, lacked standing to pursue a
PETA-backed lawsuit against the Primarily Primates sanctuary.
Named as co-plaintiffs and also denied standing were seven surviving
chimpanzees and two capuchin monkeys from the research colony
formerly kept by OSU psychology professor Sally Boysen. OSU retired
the colony to Primarily Primates in February 2006, with an endowment
of $324,000 for their quarters and upkeep, over the objections of
Boysen and PETA.
Judge Mireles also dismissed the recommendation of attorney
Charles Jackson III, whom Mireles earlier appointed to oversee the
care of the OSU animals, that the chimpanzees should be transferred
to Chimp Haven, of Shreveport, Louisiana. PETA attorney Leana
Stormont told Elizabeth White of Associated Press that PETA had
offered pay $20,000 toward the cost of the relocation and aftercare.
One adult male chimp died on arrival at Primarily Primates
and another died two months later, both from pre-existing heart
ailments. One of the monkeys escaped and has not been recaptured.
“We will be filing an appeal; this is far from over,”
PETA-hired attorney Mickey Gayler told Mike Lafferty of the Columbus
Mireles ruled five days after Primarily Primates interim executive
director Stephen Tello told Mireles that the Primarily Primates
seven-member board of trustees had unanimously rejected a proposed
out-of-court settlement that would have sent the OSU chimps to Chimp
Haven, while leaving the monkeys at Primarily Primates.
Wally Swett, president and executive director of Primarily
Primates since 1978, when he relocated a much smaller sanctuary from
Massachusetts to San Antonio, “is still on the board, but has
resigned as president and executive director,” American Sanctuary
Association executive director Vernon Weir told ANIMAL PEOPLE. “He
will be given a president emeritus contract, which will enumerate
his future duties in an advisory capacity–animal histories, health
care and behavior issues, socialization issues, fundraising
assistance, and the like. That’s still being worked out,” Weir
“Because the PETA complaints seem to focus on Wally’s
behavior, it was his decision to step down, in the best interest of
the sanctuary,” Weir continued. “Stephen Tello,” Swett’s
assistant for more than 10 years, “has returned and is working there
every day, full time. We have Stephen, and other candidates, who
are applying for the permanent job. ”
Weir, who has often acted as a spokesperson for Primarily
Primates, said the choice of a permanent successor “will be decided
at the October 6 board meeting.”
As well as Tello, the Primarily Primates board includes Lou
Griffin, the founding director of the nearby South Texas Primate
Observatory, which after 20 years of independent operation became
the Animal Protection Institute Primate Sanctuary in January 2000.
Conflicting with then-API executive director Alan Berger, Griffin
was fired in March 2002. Berger left API in April 2003.
Friends of Animals and Primarily Primates have discussed a
merger, Weir and FoA president Priscilla Feral acknowledged.
“Serious discussion will take place on October 6,” Weir said. “Both
sides have questions that need to be answered.”