"Too bad they can't speak for themselves. Somebody has to speak for them. The USDA has given the NIH permission to police themselves. They are so non-thorough, it's not even funny. No one is looking out for the chimps."
- Scot Key, Otero County, NM District Attorney, Alamogordo Daily News, September 11, 2004.
"The two cases involving Ashley and Rex indicate a fundamentally twisted attitude on the part of the senior staff of Charles River APF.... Their consciously determined and deliberate actions show a singular lack of compassion...., and in my opinion violate the most basic precepts of veterinary standards and human decency."
- C. James Mahoney, D.V.M.S., Ph.D.
"Even when I worked at The Coulston Foundation, which had a very checkered history of compliance with animal care standards, I can attest with absolute certainty that I never witnessed such willful, intentional cruelty and negligence as alleged by IDA, nor did I ever hear of such abhorrent actions from any of my former colleagues at The Coulston Foundation...."
- Brit Oiulfstad, D.V.M., M.P.H.
"They [the NIH] have obviously failed because any oversight that NIH has over Charles River is merely on paper...."
- Scot Key, Otero County, NM District Attorney, Albuquerque Journal, September 8, 2004.
IDA Investigation Leads to Criminal Charges Against NIH Chimp Lab
For the first time in U.S. history, criminal charges for animal cruelty have been filed against an animal research laboratory for its operator's alleged institutional neglect and abandonment of chimpanzees.
The unprecedented complaint, filed by Otero County, New Mexico District Attorney Scot Key on September 7, alleges that negligence surrounding the deaths of the chimpanzees Rex and Ashley, and the near-death of Topsy, at the Alamogordo Primate Facility (APF) constitutes criminal animal cruelty. The APF, located on Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, New Mexico, is owned by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is legally responsible for the day-to-day management of the lab.
The District Attorneys investigation was prompted by IDA, which provided evidence from its network of whistleblowers. Named in the criminal complaint were NIH contractor Charles River Laboratories, Inc. and APF director and veterinarian Dr. Rick Lee.
If convicted, the defendants could face a maximum of almost three years in jail.
"These historic charges are a searing indictment of the NIH, which bears the ultimate responsibility for the conscious criminal negligence apparently committed against these defenseless chimpanzees," said IDA president Elliot M. Katz, DVM.
The NIH handpicked Charles River to operate the APF after IDA exposed negligence committed by the previous APF manager, The Coulston Foundation.