It's official. Scalding a lab monkey to death in a hot-water rack-washer doesn't violate any federal animal welfare laws.
That's the ruling from the U.S. Department of Agriculture following an exclusive KIRO Team 7 Investigation into the handling of primates at an Everett pharmaceutical testing facility.
However, Investigative Reporter Chris Halsne discovered SNBL is still under USDA watch.
USDA didn't issue any violations for the boiled monkey incident -- case closed. However, newly released documents show that less than a year before that fatal accident, the feds nailed SNBL with a massive fine for a series of unrelated, repeat animal care violations.
The federal documents say two SNBL workers failed to do their jobs when they left a healthy female macaque monkey inside her cage, then sent the animal and cage into a 180-degree cleaning machine. Despite that monkey’s death, the USDA gave the lab a pass; All it took was a promise from SNBL that it would institute new requirements on checking cages before washing them.
Animal rights attorney Adam Karp is disappointed.
"If this is the complete investigation, which consists of one page and talking to one individual and relying on hearsay, then I think putting our hope and promise into a USDA investigation is far worse than I ever expected."
Karp says he is closely watching the criminal investigation currently under way into the monkey's death by the Everett police department. He says that if that fails to get results, he is considering other legal action against the employees responsible for the primate's death.
"Very few instances of cruelty and neglect that take place in institutionalized setting like this ever come to the light of day, and if the ones we do have the luck of detecting and pursuing are ignored and forgotten, then these patterns will just continue. So it’s important to take these seriously so they don't happen again."
SNBL Everett did not respond to a KIRO Team 7 Investigators request for comment on the boiled monkey case -- or the $31,000 USDA fine.
In about five years, just prior to the latest monkey death, documents show, SNBL racked up 133 violations of the animal welfare act; Findings include repeatedly failing to protect primates from injury or provide adequate veterinary care.
USDA investigators also found multiple cases of SNBL making "significant changes in the protocol" of studies without approval.
USDA reduced that $31,000 fine to around $13,000 after SNBL recently appealed. That comes out to less than $100 per violation.
A spokesperson for the Everett police department says a detective has been assigned to look into possible felony animal cruelty charges and the case is ongoing.