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The Assault on Primarily Primates Continues. So Does the Struggle to Save It.

November 08, 2006 | Chimpanzees / Press Releases

The president of Friends of Animals returned to the East Coast today from the Texas proceedings that will determine the future of the country's most long-lived private sanctuary for nonhuman primates.

Said Priscilla Feral, "There's an ominous trend affecting the sanctuary movement, especially with nonhuman apes: By a law signed in 2000, with the help of private donations, government and research interests are keeping lifetime control over chimpanzees."
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The future of Primarily Primates will say much about whether the animal-advocacy community will fight to keep true sanctuaries," added Feral. "We're committed to that."

On Friday, 3 November 2006, the Third Court of Appeals in Austin ordered an indefinite stay to halt the appointed receiver's plans to continue moving primates and other animals out of Primarily Primates, the sanctuary they call home. After an interstate move earlier this year into the sanctuary, two chimpanzees died, overcome by the effects of pre-existing heart conditions.

The emergency stay in support of the sanctuary is connected with an appeal that challenges the receiver's authority over finances and activities at the refuge.

The appeal notes that the receiver, Lee Theisen-Watt, is not a disinterested party but instead is fronting for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and is unqualified to perform the duties of a receiver and to live up to the position's ethical standards. Last month, for example, the Court heard how Theisen-Watt had, when claiming competency for the post, falsely sworn to hold a Bachelor's degree.

Although the post requires attention to the best interest of the refuge and its residents, Theisen-Watt admitted in court to holding at least 10 press interviews during the first two weeks of being appointed. One of Theisen-Watt's first official acts was to petition the trial court for authority to begin killing the refuge animals -- a desire consistent with PETA's animal-control methods. Although Theisen-Watt's request was initially granted, Primarily Primates contested that authority, and it was suspended by the trial judge.

Immediately after being appointed as receiver, Theisen-Watt opened the refuge doors to dozens of people affiliated with PETA who in turn took numerous photographs, many of which were deliberately misleading.

"For some time, representations of this refuge have been distributed by people whose first priority seems to be disrupting these animals' lives, breaking up their home, and even killing them," Priscilla Feral stated. "The sanctuary has been portrayed in the most negative light, but having toured it myself, I can say that the pictures and criticisms say more about the people circulating them than about Primarily Primates."

Circulated yesterday (7 November 2006) with the subject line "In My Cell at PPI" were photos described as "taken last week" (thus identified as taken on Theisen-Watt's watch) and "particularly heart wrenching" according to an accompanying message from an anonymous person purporting to be the photographer. One image is that of an unidentified chimpanzee sitting in a barren room with cockroaches on the wall.

Also under Theisen-Watt's watch, a chimpanzee named Uriah has sustained serious facial injuries (photos available from Friends of Animals). Uriah was hit by another chimpanzee because PETA's affiliates ignored a Primarily Primates staffer's warnings and tossed produce over the top of the enclosures without first taking the sanctuary's regular safety precaution of distracting the most aggressive ape, Josh, with attractive fruits such as melons and apples.

Regular Primarily Primates staff members have not only had their advice on caretaking ignored, but have been subjected to open hostility.

Uriah is forced, with other chimpanzees, to live in increasingly dirty areas. PETA's affiliates have been unable to properly maintain an area, a ground-level depression to which the chimpanzees have access, which as of Monday, the 6th of November was filled with water, excrement, urine, and T-shirts that PETA affiliates tossed into the enclosures. The chimpanzees are at risk of illness and infection from slinging these wet and filthy garments around and from fruit particles that fall into the polluted mix.

Primarily Primates is now pressing its case for a trial by jury as soon as possible to clear itself of PETA's accusations. The representatives of the Attorney General's office -- who nominally filed the suit at PETA's urgings -- have now stated they will not be ready for trial by the assigned date of 8 January 2007.

Friends of Animals president Priscilla Feral states: "Primarily Primates has had a great deal of public support. Some of the refuge supporters have been dedicated to Primarily Primates for two decades or more. People who have visited the refuge and many other advocates, too, believe it's wrong to destroy the refuge, and have asked us to continue working to save it."

Friends of Animals, headquartered in Darien, Connecticut, has been a global leader in animal- rights advocacy since 1957.


It always amazes me how the weakest of living beings, animals have no rights in this country. This administration and prior have still looked at animals as pieces of property. The abuse continues thru the world. I find it sad that this and all sanctuaries are not held as sacred. These primates deserve a refuge that they can live out a peaceful and safe life.

If PETA was really concerned about the animals...why didn't they take the money that they have/will spent/spend on lawyer fees and make donations to improve the facility? The structures were already in place. I'm confused by this. If the facility had fallen into a state of disrepair as they claim, why not take donations from their organization and work with the owners to help improve it? Why weren't there warnings if things were as bad they say? Many people including myself would have rushed to make a donation if we would have thought that the facility was in desperate need. Something just doesn't ring true to me about these accusations. If a humane society in was in need, most animal advocates would rush out to pitch in and help the existing organization, not set out to destroy it altogether. I don't have any personal knowledge of the situation, but I have donated to Primarily Primates over the years. I think that their work to provide a safe home for unwanted animals is so important.

Thank you for supporting this organization. There are two sides to every story, and PPI deserves their day in court.

Please help!

This is so typical of PETA, without having all the facts, they rush in, and attempt to destroy a legitimate sanctuary. They took animals that were just beginning to adjust to life outside a lab, and stuck them right back in a stressful, potentially abusive situation. PETA is transparent now I believe.

PETA always has this elitist attitude of superiority over all of mankind. They believe their cause is so great that nothing is out of bounds when pursuing a target whether they need to be dishonest, illegal or ethically corrupt. They also think the public is stupid. Does anyone not believe the is not just another PETA-created, fictitious organization to praise and support themselves and ask for money? PETA has pulled this same trick so many times it's just getting old. I applaud Friends of Animals for truly being an advocate for these animals. FOA has gained our lifetime support. Thank you.

Oh my God, I was thinking the same thing! This whole thing is so shady. If this Theisen-Watt woman represents the Texas AG's pick for the wellbeing of these animals, how does taking down Primarily Primates website and putting up one that trashes the facility fit into her scope of responsibilities? Is this even legal for her to do? Ms. Watt: less time patting yourself on the back and more time trying to find a conscience might serve you well in future endeavors.

I am angry and saddened that even one nonhuman resident of Primarily Primates life has been disrupted. Peta should be making things better for them and I'm sure they can afford it. Norma McMillen, former Pres. People for Animal Rights, Kansas City, Mo.

PLEASE HELP!!! About three years ago I helped place 2 chimps (Little Boy and Cheetah) and a pony named Peanut at the sanctuary from NJ. We, myself and their former handler J. Burger, have tried to contact anyone we could think of. She has called the sanctuary several times and know one knows anything.(suprise??!!) We just need to know if they are ok and where they are. We have heard that they (PETA) got rid of all the horses and ponies. They really need to stop using their political muscles against the people that are actually helping!!! If anyone has any information please let us know. THANK YOU FOA!

I answered the call put out for volunteers to come to PPI and help. I have worked with primates for over 30 years and was president of the board of directors for Mindy's Memory Primate Sanctuary until 6 Oct when I resigned for personal reasons. I have volunteered at four different sanctuaries with many species of primates. I was a pet monkey owner for many years and learned the hard way what specialized care these animals need. After speaking with the volunteer coordinators, I made travel arrangements to volunteer from 10-17 Nov., costing me over $1000 for airfare, hotel and car rental. On 1 Nov. I received an email from Lee Theisen-Watt telling me not to make plans because of the uncertainty of the court case. I am now stuck with non-refundable airline tickets to San Antonio. As far as I know, I am the only one that has been denied access. If anyone else has had this experience, please contact me. I think it is becuase I am someone they could not manipulate into seeing things their way. The whole world is watching and we should continue to do so until the animals are safe.


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