Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Feds will check for animal welfare violations in Vegas tragedy

What went wrong in Las Vegas last week? Chimps-R-Us, Inc. was the USDA-licensed exhibitor for Buddy and CJ, the Las Vegas chimpanzees who recently escaped from their holding cages before being gunned down (Buddy) or tranquilized and returned to her cage (CJ).

The federal government may be able to shed some light on the tragedy. Maybe they’ll be able to tell us what kind of conditions the chimpanzees were living under, aside from the fact that they were living in a concrete and steel cage when temperatures had been hitting 114 degrees for several days.

The facility was inspected last year. The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s report from the routine inspection on April 12, 2011, indicated that
  • There were no records of animals on hand as required under section 2.75(b)(1).
  • There was no written program of veterinary care as required by section 2.40(a)(1).
  • There was no written program of environmental enhancement to promote the psychological well-being of non-human primates that is required under section 3.81.
Exhibitors are suppose to allow APHIS officials to examine the records but, the report notes, "[t]hese three sets of records were not on site and therefore not made available for inspection/examination.” The inspector required Chimps-R-Us to correct the shortcomings by May 12, 2011.

“I do not know if this facility came into compliance after the most recent inspection report (in 2011) because that official determination is based upon inspections, and there has not been an inspection since that time,” Dave Sacks, a spokesman for APHIS, told me.

“What I can tell you is that we will be sending an inspector to Chimps-R-Us in the days ahead to look into the escape, in order to determine if any potential violations of the Animal Welfare Act may have contributed to the incident.”

USDA inspection reports are publicly posted on their website, 21 days after the inspection is complete. “There is a built-in lag time in case a facility chooses to appeal something on the report,” Sacks pointed out.

In the meantime, one lawmaker in Nevada has indicated that he plans to introduce legislation to ban keeping wild animals as pets.

Buddy sinks to the pavement, moments after he was shot

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