Animal Legal Defense Fund Sues Florida County for Secretly Approving African Monkey Breeding FacilityPosted on November 6, 2014
Facility for Monkeys Known to Carry Ebola, Other Diseases Approved in Violation of State Public Accountability Law
For immediate release:
Megan Backus, Animal Legal Defense Fund
LA BELLE, Fla. — The national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) filed a lawsuit today on behalf of local Hendry County residents after the county approved a primate breeding facility that could hold as many as 3,200 long-tailed macaques—a species linked with prior outbreaks of infectious disease. Hendry County approved the controversial project (“SoFlo Ag”) behind closed doors with only the facility’s supporters present and failed to hold the public hearing required by the state’s “Sunshine Law.” ALDF is asking the Twentieth Judicial Circuit court for Hendry County to revoke the facility’s permit as a result of its failure to hold mandatory public hearings.
Possession of nonhuman primates like macaques is regulated by federal and state agencies due to threats of disease posed by these animals, including Ebola, Herpes B, tuberculosis, and parasites. This particular species of macaque was responsible for an outbreak of the “Reston” strain of the Ebola virus at a Virginia research facility—detailed in the bestseller The Hot Zone—and a tuberculosis outbreak. The macaques in question will allegedly be transported from Mauritius to a traditionally rural agricultural community in Hendry County. The monkeys will be bred at SoFlo Ag and sold to animal testing facilities for use in experiments. An undercover investigation recently exposed rough treatment of animals by the Mauritius dealer reportedly providing the wild macaques to SoFlo Ag.
Under Florida’s Sunshine Law, state and local government bodies must hold public hearings for high-level decisions—like building a facility next to a residential area that will house thousands of African-born macaques who may carry infectious diseases. A similar permitting issue derailed the construction of a nearly identical facility (under different ownership) in Puerto Rico in 2012, when the Puerto Rico Supreme Court held that the process for approving that facility was defective.
“The courts have long recognized Florida’s Sunshine Law as a reflection of the public’s right to be involved in decision making processes in their own communities,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “Local residents are concerned with the treatment of these monkeys as well as the safety threats they pose to the community.”
Copies of the complaint are available upon request.