Chimps go from Primarily Primates to Chimp Haven
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2006:
SAN ANTONIO–Seven chimpanzees who were at the center of
recent PETA allegations against the Primarily Primates sanctuary were
on November 16 relocated to Chimp Haven, in Keithville, Louisiana,
“The move sparked a rush of high emotion outside the
sanctuary,” summarized Jordan Smith of the Austin Chronicle, as
neither Primarily Primates senior staff nor the Primarily Primates
attorneys had been told that the chimps were to be moved.
Opened in October 2005, after 10 years of fundraising and
construction, the $14 million Chimp Haven complex houses 84 former
lab chimps in all, mostly under a contract from the National
Endowments of Health which allows the NIH to reclaim chimps for
further study if at any time they develop a medically interesting
condition or for any other reason are again wanted for lab use.
Not accredited by either the American Sanctuary Association
or the Association of Sanctuaries, Chimp Haven was itself intensely
controversial in January 2002, when ANIMAL PEOPLE explored the
debate about it. But it was Ohio State University researcher Sally
Boysen’s destination of choice for her nine chimps after OSU quit
funding their care–and the destination of choice for PETA, to whom
Boysen appealed for help when OSU sent the chimps to Primarily
Primates instead, along with $324,000 for their housing and $72,000
for their upkeep. The funding is to follow the chimps wherever they
end up, said OSU spokesperson Earle Holland.
One OSU chimp died on arrival at Primarily Primates in
February 2006. Another died two months later. Both deaths were
caused by pre-existing heart conditions, according to necropsies,
but the chimps’ former OSU caretakers cited the deaths and complaints
by former Primarily Primates staff in a PETA-funded lawsuit that
sought to move the chimps to Chimp Haven. Bexar County Civil
District Court Judge Andy Mireles on September 8, 2006 dismissed the
case, and withdrew the appointment of attorney Charles Jackson III
as a special master to oversee the chimps’ care. Jackson also wanted
to send the chimps to Chimp Haven.
Primarily Primates then restructured, agreeing to become a
project of Friends of Animals.
PETA and 28-year Primarily Primates president Wally Swett
have been at odds since 1991, when Swett openly criticized PETA for
closing the sanctuary it formerly operated at Aspen Hill, Maryland,
killing many of the animals. Swett also criticized PETA legal
actions against the NIH that kept the NIH from releasing several
macaques to Primarily Primates for retirement.
FoA and Primarily Pri-mates, however, have often collaborated on projects.
Swett retired as part of the restructuring, succeeded as
president by longtime staff and board member Stephen Tello.
On October 14, 2006, agents for the Texas Attorney General
and Bexar County sheriff’s department seized Primarily Primates
without prior notice, naming as receiver wildlife rehabilitator Lee
Theisen-Watt. Watt sent about 200 animals to other sanctuaries
during the next two weeks. The Third Court of Appeals in Austin on
November 3, 2006 ordered an indefinite stay on further dispersal of
the animals, but the ex-OSU chimps were allowed to go to Chimp Haven
for “temporary” care because work on their longterm care facilities
was suspended by the October 14 seizure of Primarily Primates’
“Also on November 16,” wrote Jordan Smith, “Assistant
Attorney General Ted Ross filed two ’emergency’ motions alleging that
Tello and FoA president Priscilla Feral sent letters critical of Watt
in an attempt to thwart Watt’s ability to raise funds in support of
Primarily Primates. Ross argues that Tello and Feral asked donors to
send money to them instead. Judge Guy Herman ordered Tello and Feral
to appear for a hearing to determine whether they acted in contempt
of court by withholding the Primarily Primates donor list from Herman
and, ultimately, from Watt.”
Friends of Animals is raising funds in support of Primarily
Primates’ legal response to the PETA-amplified allegations. FoA
seeks to remove Watt and put Primarily Primates back under Tello.
The case is presently scheduled to be heard on March 26, 2007.
FoA on December 2, 2006 posted at <www.friendsofanimals.org>
Tello’s detailed rebuttal and FoA attorney Lee Hall’s shorter
response to allegations against Primarily Primates that appear at
PETA witness Terry Minchew, Hall said, “accepted an
invitation to stay at Primarily Primates rent-free in exchange for
providing enrichment for animals–a task she ignored. Minchew
abandoned numerous animals at the refuge.”
“They have also relied on the comments of John Fischer, a
worker fired for cause,” alleged Tello. “As supervisor, it was
Fischer’s daily job to check all heaters. Fischer’s own negligence
caused the death of a monkey from frostbite,” Tello charged.