Cruel conditions at live animal markets

photo: Woody Swartz

Two South Florida grocery stores that sell live animals have run into trouble with state inspectors.

Following an ARFF complaint about extremely crowded tanks full of frogs, and the sale of live turtles, at Foodtown, a market in Davie, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) issued the market warnings for “improper temporary caging, and improperly exhibiting softshell turtles.”

Earlier this month, NBC 6 South Florida reported that the FWC inspected a different market, New York Mart in Sunrise, and found animals kept in cruel conditions (two dead turtles were discovered among those offered for sale). The market was issued criminal citations for “temporary caging not allowing movement,” and “maintaining wildlife in an unsafe condition.”

ARFF will continue to visit these markets to make sure that state regulations that provide limited protections to frogs and turtles are enforced.

Biohazard training for Hendry County health workers

biohazard-blog

With three monkey breeding facilities in operation in Hendry County, and a fourth under construction, it is probably a good thing that staff members from the county health department and Hendry County EMS recently attended a training session to help them identify and respond to biological threats (photo from The Caloosa Belle).

Monkeys imported into the U.S. for laboratory research can carry dangerous viruses and bacteria, such as Herpes B and tuberculosis. The threat is greater with wild-caught monkeys, such as the 630 crab-eating macaques imported in 2014 by Primate Products (the company was the subject of a recent investigation by PETA).

Of course, the best way for Hendry County to protect against an outbreak of infectious disease would be to put a stop to the expansion of the monkey breeding industry. Visit ARFF’s website to learn more.

Dissection restricted in Miami-Dade public schools

logoOn June 17, the School Board of Miami-Dade County voted unanimously to stop cat dissections in county schools. The school board will also explore the possibility of ending all animal dissections throughout the district. It was a significant step for America’s 4th largest public school system! ARFF thanks board member Raquel Regalado for proposing the action.

Dissecting the bodies of dead cats has been banned in Broward County for many years. Today, there are many humane alternatives to classroom dissection– including models, computer software and other state-of-the-art educational materials.

Does a public school near you use cats in dissections? Contact the school board and urge them to follow the example set by Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Contact ARFF for help.

Activists rally statewide to stop bear hunt

For Immediate Release: June 19, 2015

(Lakeland, FL) — At its June meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will take a final vote on opening a bear hunting season in Florida. Animal activists across the state will rally against a bear hunt at the FWC’s regional offices in West Palm Beach, Ocala, Lake City, Lakeland and Panama City.

PROTEST DATE AND TIME: Monday, June 22 at 12:00 noon

LOCATIONS:

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
South Regional Office
8535 Northlake Boulevard
West Palm Beach, FL 33412

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
North Central Regional Office
3377 E U.S. Highway 90
Lake City, FL 32055

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Southwest Regional Office
3900 Drane Field Road
Lakeland, FL 33811

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Northwest Regional Office
3911 Hwy. 2321
Panama City, FL 32409

“Commissioners are ignoring the majority of Floridians who have said they oppose a bear hunt,” said ARFF Campaigns Coordinator Nick Atwood. “A trophy hunt is not a solution to human-bear conflicts. To protect public safety, Florida’s state wildlife agency should invest in bear-resistant trash cans, and not waste its limited resources on a hunt.”

Bears were last hunted in Florida in 1993. Although bear numbers have grown, hunting will threaten a still-recovering population (the Florida black bear was only removed from the state threatened list in 2012).

Hunting bears deep in the woods will not reduce bear conflicts in residential neighborhoods. Properly securing garbage and eliminating other attractants (pet food, outdoor grills, bird feeders) is the key to reducing conflicts with bears.

*The FWC meeting will be held June 23-25 in Sarasota.

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Elephants trade sunny Florida for snowy Rochester, New York

For Immediate Release: April 22, 2015

(Jacksonville, FL) — Last week, two African elephants were transferred from the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens to the Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester, New York.

The two female elephants, Moki and Chana, joined two elephants already at the zoo in Rochester.

Sadly, this is only the most recent move for the two elephants. Moki and Chana arrived in Jacksonville from the Lee Richardson Zoo in Garden City, Kansas in October 2006. In return, the Jacksonville Zoo moved a different pair of elephants (“Missy” and “Kimba”) to Kansas. The swap was an (unsuccessful) experiment designed to encourage Moki and Chana to breed with a male elephant at the Jacksonville Zoo.

“Too often, zoos trade elephants like baseball cards, without the best interest of the individual elephant in mind,” said ARFF Campaigns Coordinator Nick Atwood. “The two Florida elephants have a future of harsh winters to look forward to. In Rochester, Moki and Chana will likely spend more time confined indoors, especially during the winter months.”

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“Man vs. Greyhound” Event Cancelled

For Immediate Release: April 2, 2015

(Longwood, FL) — Students from Lyman High School will no longer participate in “Man vs. Greyhound,” an annual event in which football players from the school raced greyhounds at the Sanford-Orlando Kennel Club. The event raised funds for greyhound adoptions, but was opposed by animal welfare activists.

Local residents Bryan and Carla Wilson, who became greyhound advocates after adopting a rescued greyhound, appealed to the school not to associate itself with the cruel greyhound racing industry. Between May 2013 and July 2014, 19 dogs were reported to have died at the Sanford-Orlando Kennel Club — one of the highest death rates among Florida tracks. The Wilson’s provided the school with over 100 fundraising ideas for the students, so they could continue to support greyhound adoption.

This week, Lyman High School Principal Brian Urichko confirmed that the event would not go forward in 2015 with students from the school. (The school mascot is a greyhound.)

“Having had the pleasure of sharing a home with a rescued greyhound and working with local adoptions, we know how special these dogs are and how horrible the racing industry is,” said Bryan Wilson, who also acts as Central Florida Coordinator for the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida. “We are thankful that Lyman made the decision to cancel the Man vs Greyhound event. The students not only had no business at a gambling institution, but no business being used as a public relations props by SOKC.”

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Death of a Florida elephant raises TB concerns

For Immediate Release: March 18, 2015

(Gainesville, FL) — “Topsy,” an Asian elephant who was born in the wild but spent her entire life in the circus, died in August 2014. Her death came to light only recently as a result of a public records request from the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF).

Topsy was owned by Frank Murray, a circus elephant handler. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Topsy was buried on Murray’s property in Archer, Florida. A necropsy was not conducted to determine the cause of death, despite Topsy’s history of health problems.

In 2012, Topsy tested positive for tuberculosis antibodies, raising concerns about a threat to public health.

“Topsy reportedly tested positive for the antibodies for tuberculosis on two blood tests in 2012, and was denied entry into both Maine and Wisconsin for that reason,” explained Deborah Robinson, attorney and circus specialist, “Given that tuberculosis does not necessarily produce symptoms, and given that these tests can show the presence of TB long before it can be detected otherwise, they point to a strong possibility that Murray’s other elephant, Annette, has been exposed to the disease, which is transmissible to humans. Annette is still being used to give rides.”

For at least 20 years, Frank Murray’s two elephants, Topsy and Annette, traveled together. The elephants were used in circuses and to give rides at Renaissance fairs across the country. Annette is currently being used to give rides at the Bay Area Renaissance Festival in Tampa (weekends until March 29).

“It is unfortunate that we will never know why Topsy died. Surprisingly, owners of captive wildlife, even endangered Asian elephants, are not required to report deaths to the FWC,” said ARFF Campaigns Coordinator Nick Atwood. “Topsy’s death heightens our concerns that other elephants in Florida could fall through the cracks after a life of exploitation.”

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Worldwide Primates drops lawsuit against animal rights activists

For Immediate Release: February 26, 2015

(Miami, FL) — Plaintiffs on February 11 voluntarily dismissed a lawsuit against activists with the group South Florida Smash HLS (smashhls.com). The lawsuit, “Worldwide Primates, Inc. v. Serignese,” commenced in the 11th Judicial Circuit Court on March 10, 2014.

The lawsuit originally alleged that 34 named defendants had tortiously interfered with Worldwide Primates’ business relationships. It sought a preliminary and permanent injunction, and damages. Amended complaints were filed in May, June and November. Prior to the voluntary dismissal, claims against 29 of the defendants had been dismissed by the Court or withdrawn. All claims against five remaining defendants have now been dismissed.

“We are extremely pleased that this meritless lawsuit has ended,” said Smash HLS organizer Gary Serignese. “As for Worldwide Primates, we will continue to vigorously speak out on behalf of the hundreds of monkeys each year that the company condemns to a miserable existence inside research labs.”

The Court imposed no restrictions on future protests targeting Worldwide Primates.

The defendants were represented by Thomas Julin and Paulo Lima of Hunton & Williams LLP, and attorneys James Green and Anne O’Berry.

Worldwide Primates is one of the largest importers of monkeys for research and testing in the United States. In 2014, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service records, Worldwide Primates (16450 SW 180 St., Miami, Florida) imported over 2,000 monkeys from China, Mauritius and St. Kitts & Nevis to be sold for experiments.

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Where are Florida’s monkey farms shipping monkeys?

Florida is home to three companies that provide monkeys to laboratories for use in research and testing: Primate Products, Worldwide Primates, and The Mannheimer Foundation (a fourth company, PreLabs, is constructing a new facility near Lehigh Acres).

truckIn response to a public records request, ARFF has received copies of paperwork filed by Primate Products and The Mannheimer Foundation with the State of Florida detailing shipments of monkeys since January 1. ARFF is looking into why Worldwide Primates did not file the required certificates of veterinary inspection with the Florida Department of Agriculture.

Between January 1 and December 9, 2014, Primate Products shipped 1,245 monkeys to contract research organizations, universities and government labs. Click here to download a summary of the shipments. Compared to previous years*, Primate Product’s customer list has shrunk. Two customers– Charles River and SNBL— made up 80% of Primate Products’ business.

In May, Primate Products shipped 20 monkeys to Central State Primates, a site operated by PreLabs in Missouri. Two months after the animals arrived, a USDA inspector found unsanitary conditions and a female monkey with “excessive hair loss.” The inspector noted, “hair loss can be a sign that the animal is in psychological distress.” The facility was ordered to improve environmental enrichment for its caged monkeys.  (Similar problems were identified during an inspection at Central State Primates in August 2013.)

This year The Mannheimer Foundation shipped a smaller number of monkeys (211) out of Florida. Its main customer was Merck Research Laboratories. Click here to download a summary of The Mannheimer Foundation’s shipments.

*ARFF released similar sets of records in August 2013, July 2012 and in November 2011.

Animal Activists Send Flowers to Mexican consulate

For Immediate Release: December 16, 2014

(Miami, FL) – This morning, the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF) delivered a bouquet of flowers to the Consulate General of Mexico, in downtown Miami, to congratulate Mexico’s congress on its enactment of a groundbreaking law prohibiting the use of lions, tigers, elephants and other wild animals in circuses.

The House of Representatives passed the legislation on December 11. Mexico’s Senate approved the legislation earlier in the week. The bill now needs the signature of President Enrique Peña Nieto to become law.

Legislator Arturo Escobar y Vega, of the PVEM (Ecological Green Party of Mexico), which pushed the measure, explained, “It is undeniable that there is cruelty and abuse during handling and training of animals in the circus industry, and it has been proven many times that animals are victims of physical and psychological damage.”

Flowers delivered to:
José Antonio Zabalgoitia, Consul General
Consulate General of Mexico in Miami
1399 SW 1st Ave.
Miami, FL 33130
Phone: (786) 268-4900

In June, Mexico City prohibited the use of animals in circuses. Thirteen Mexican states have also adopted bans.

“In circuses in Mexico, elephants, tigers and other animals spend much of their lives chained or in small cages. Training is often violent and abusive,” said ARFF Communications Director Don Anthony. “Sadly the situation is not any different for animals used in circuses that visit Florida, such as Ringling Bros.”

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has a long history of abusive treatment of elephants and other animals. ARFF will hold a demonstration against the circus at American Airlines Arena in Miami on January 8.

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