January 31, 2008
A monkey, slotted to be used in a drug-product research experiment, was instead boiled alive inside an Everett laboratory, a KIRO Team 7 Investigation found.
It's a deadly error, but not the first one KIRO Team 7 Investigators uncovered at SNBL USA.
That company is near the Boeing Plant off Merrill Creek Parkway in Everett. It houses around 2,000 primates and represents clients like Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, Eli Lilly and Seattle Genetics.
Using hidden camera footage, Investigative Reporter Chris Halsne shows you inside a facility that's no stranger to federal animal care violations.
When it comes to scientific experiments, often the Cynomolgus Macaque monkey is the primate of choice. They weigh anywhere from about 3 to 25 pounds and make lots of barking noises. It's hard to image how anyone could miss one sitting inside a small cage.
In early November, SNBL employees set out to clean pens full of monkeys and, at times, their babies.
Our hidden camera footage, taken inside SNBL headquarters, shows just how obvious it is to see and hear these animals jumping around in their enclosures.
Despite that, KIRO Team 7 Investigators confirmed someone placed a wire kennel, with a healthy female macaque monkey still inside, into a giant rack-washer.
The 180-degree water, caustic foam and detergent killed the primate at some point during the 20-minute cycle.
Joanie McCully is a former Animal Care Supervisor for the SNBL.
"I was sick to my stomach. It broke my heart because that is so avoidable and unnecessary, and I couldn't believe it. I wanted to vomit right there. I had other people calling me and saying, 'Did you hear?' They were in tears. It was just horrible, especially when they described her, foam coming out of her mouth and her gripping the bars of the cage. They had to peel her off of that cage. Yuck."
McCully is upset by what she calls a "long-standing disregard" for animal care at the Everett facility. As an example, she points to an e-mail from a veterinarian working at SNBL entitled "uh oh".
McCully asked the vet, "I heard about the monkey, pretty bad."
The reply: "Oh yes- what a mess! Knew it was (g)oing to happen at some time - many close calls. Now all the paperwork � USDA and AAALAC. What FUN!"
McCully was floored by the reaction.
"When I inquired about it, the reply I got back was 'Oh, dear.' Think of the paperwork. That just upset me to my soul because no animal in there should die because of somebody�s mistake or negligence or lack of compassion. "
McCully says she was recently fired after telling federal inspectors that some SNBL employees were abusing primates and failing to follow other US Department of Agriculture guidelines.
Her list of complaints include: employees carelessly spraying monkeys with acid and intentionally slamming primates on the floor. Why would they do that?
"Drop that cage from a standing position. Drop it. Monkeys would land on their heads in that cage and they'd (employees would) spin it around to confuse the monkey and get it all out of sorts. Then, (they�d) do the procedure. That way the monkey is cooperative."
The company, so far, has refused to speak with KIRO Team 7 Investigators about that allegation or a number of others listed in U.S. Department of Agriculture reports.
We discovered the USDA opened a series of federal Animal Welfare violation cases against SNBL in 2005 after 19 marmoset monkeys died. An inspector noted "highly toxic agents were being injected into animals without the use of methods to relieve pain and distress."
The report also shows a number of "repeat non-compliance" issues, including recordkeeping so poor that inspectors couldn't tell if "the animals were receiving adequate veterinary care, or any veterinary care, before they died."
Primate medicine expert and veterinarian Dr. Cathy Johnson-Delaney quit SNBL about a year before the marmoset deaths.
She says there is no excuse to mistreat monkeys. Not only is it cruel, but it can distort human drug studies SNBL is paid millions to oversee.
Johnson Delaney told KIRO Team 7 Investigators, "If you're going to be causing pain and distress to an animal, first of all, it's against the Animal Welfare Act. Secondly, the science is going to be compromised. A stressed animal does not give you the data."
A Japanese conglomerate, Shin Nippon Biomedical, owns the Everett research center. It did not respond to KIRO Team 7 Investigators regarding the animal welfare record if its subsidiary.
McCully says remaining silent about dead, sick, or abused primates will not make the ongoing federal investigation go away.
"If you can't put yourself in the monkey's place or that mouse's place or that rat's place, you don't need to be there. You don't need to be there. If you don't have that compassion, this isn't the job for you."
A USDA spokesperson confirmed to Halsne that SNBL is on what that the agency calls the "risk list." It's a special category where inspectors visit more often than once a year, as required by law. That agency also tells Halsne, 'You get on the risk list by having a pattern of non-compliance.'
The USDA confirmed to KIRO Team 7 Investigators that its inspectors are aware of the scalded monkey incident. That agency has no other comment until that investigation is complete.
We contacted SNBL repeatedly over the past week. Late Thursday, our station received an e-mail. It says- in part:
"One of the monkeys used in our research died in an unfortunate accident. It was the first accidental death of a monkey in our care in eight and a half years."
The company also states that it has been told "that the last [USDA] investigation in November contained no violations."
To see more of SNBL's response- click here.