For the second time in a decade, an animal-rights activist has slipped past employment screeners at the Oregon National Primate Research Center, taken a job as a monkey handler and accused the facility of routinely abusing animals.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a national animal-rights group, planted one of its undercover investigators at the Hillsboro center from April 9 to July 25, officials at the nonprofit told The Oregonian.
The investigator, whom neither PETA nor the primate center would identify, took a job as an animal husbandry technician and secretly took notes and shot video to document her complaints. PETA will formalize her accusations today in a complaint to federal regulators.
"We are an open facility," declared Michael Conn, the associate director and acting head of the primate center's Department of Animal Resources, in a response Monday. Regulators have inspected the primate center three times since February, finding the facility in full compliance with federal law, he said. "There are no secrets here."
PETA's complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture accuses the primate center, a wing of Oregon Health & Science University, of violating eight provisions of the Animal Welfare Act, a federal law intended to guarantee humane treatment of research animals. Among PETA's allegations:
Primate center officials failed to provide timely or effective veterinary treatment for monkeys suffering chronic vomiting, diarrhea and kidney stones.
The center failed to ensure that employees were qualified to perform medical procedures, allowing a worker with palsied hands to give hypodermic injections that caused blood to spurt from a monkey's arm.
Workers failed to prevent monkeys from suffering trauma, behavioral stress, physical harm and unnecessary discomfort, sometimes putting sedated animals into group enclosures that exposed them to falls or attacks from other monkeys.
"The actions of (primate center) staff show a flagrant disregard for the law and for the animals for whom they are responsible," the complaint alleges.
Similar complaints from another animal rights infiltrator in 2000 were investigated by the USDA, and the center was found not to violate the law. Conn said he would be "absolutely shocked" if the new allegations were substantiated.