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PPI's response to Peta's Allegations

October 19, 2006 | Press Releases / Chimpanzees / Animal Rights / Take Action

As the Interim Executive Director of Primarily Primates, this letter is in response to the Mary Beth Sweetland letter of October 16, 2006 sent to the Board of Directors of Friends of Animals.

Sweetland asks why Friends of Animals is helping to aid and abet Wallace Swett. First of all, Wallace Swett has not been the president or the executive director for about 2 months, a fact that PETA chooses to conveniently ignore. For the past two months I have been running the sanctuary. Second, Friends of Animals supports our sanctuary and our animals and not individuals. And I am sure Friends of Animals will have plenty to say in the future about PETA's hideous attack against a nonprofit animal sanctuary that has saved hundreds of animals from death and abuse, and why PETA prefers to attack us rather than going after the thousands of breeders, dealers and exhibitors who truly are abusing animals. We will have more to say too. As I write, PETA, consistent with their past record of animal care, is making plans to kill Primarily Primates' animals rather than providing for their long term care.

Primarily Primates uses a large staff of veterinarians, depending on their special field of expertise. For example, just within the past 6 weeks, I have witnessed the following veterinary medical care: Dr. Kirk, a primate specialist, and our primary veterinarian, has visited our sanctuary every week. She has collected fecal samples and blood on numerous chimpanzees, including those of the OSU case, two baboons, and one bonnet macaque. When needed, she has preformed necropsies. Dr. Thomas Vice has also performed necropsies in the past, and recently treated a colobus monkey. In addition, Dr. Kathy Braske performed a culture on a Colobus monkey, and Dr. J. Pat Mims has provided veterinary medical consultation. I have also consulted with Dr. Thomas Butler for advice when Oliver our elderly chimpanzee was experiencing an apparent stroke. Lastly, I was in contact with Dr. Pat Frost who aided Primarily Primates by donating HI-Pro monkey chow to help the OSU chimpanzees. They are refusing to eat any other primate diet other than the one they were fed at OSU. In total, 6 veterinarians have assisted me in the last 6 weeks with animal care and medical emergencies.

Over the course of many years, we have attempted to hire different individuals to apply enrichment techniques for the animals. Many animal enclosures have toys, branches, swings, balls, barrows, ropes, and other child play toys. However, it is imperative to remember that all primates are not alike. Each have different needs and in some cases, what could be determined as behavioral enrichment for one primate, may injure another. Enrichment does not mean everyone should get a blanket... for some primates, tearing into blankets can result in the fabric strands choking an animal, or it could get tied around a hand or foot, or if swallowed could cause an animal to have blockage or bloody stools. For example, fiber (leaves and branches) works well for most all chimpanzees. However, there are 2 chimpanzees with histories of hemorrhoids and other problems which result from the intake of such fiber. Because PETA does not know the medical history of these animals, nor are they even answering the telephone to speak with our veterinarian, they are potentially endangering the lives of these chimpanzees by "pretending" they are being humane and providing enrichment. In fact, they are potentially killing animals whose histories they know nothing about.

PETA may think it is cute to provide chimpanzees with blankets at this time of the year, and great for their photo opportunities, but it is extremely dangerous to the health of the chimpanzees. What PETA simply does not comprehend is that blankets provide an artificial form of heat. The chimpanzees, of course, love to play with them. They also love hay. And they love leafy branches to make nests. This is all observed in any nature show. But if you watch nature shows you will also see that the chimps build these nests high in tropical African rain forests where they will not encounter temperatures that fall into the 20's and below. Yes it is great to give the chimps a blanket, but in doing so, they are giving the chimps a false sense of heat and they will sleep out at night in the middle of the coldest times of the year, and die. PETA once again is demonstrating its ignorance in the care of chimpanzees by not helping the chimpanzees to understand that during this period of the year, they must retreat indoors were the inside bedrooms are temperature controlled. PETA is stupidly going to kill chimpanzees who will remain outdoors covered in their little cute blanket when the temperature can drop from the 80's one moment to freezing temperatures by sundown.

Many animals are in various states of health. This is because Primarily Primates houses animals who have been abused, abandoned, unwanted, used in horrific research experiments or testing, or spoiled by humans who kept them as "pets" and provided them with nutritionally deficient diets. The tamarin facility at Primarily Primates, for example, originally housed 130 cotton top tamarins who were purpose bred and inbred to get colon cancer. The caregiver in charge of this area is probably one of the most stressed individuals at Primarily Primates because he / she is dealing with a population purposely bred to die of cancer. By the time you get to know an individual tamarin who weighs no more than a pound, he / she is dead from cancer related causes. If Primarily Primates was a research facility studying colon cancer, this would be great. We could have all the samples we want. But we are not. Here our tamarins lived for many years free from continued research, with free access to the outdoors, a heated indoor bedroom, nutritious diet, and the companionship of other tamarins. Most have now passed on, many having lived a natural life span, despite their compromised health.

Regarding the few dogs we have, they are all exercised every day by the staff and are up to date on their shots. Only 2 weeks ago, on St Francis day, I began a new employee benefit, employee pet day, and the all the dogs and cats of our employees and those of Primarily Primates were vaccinated against rabies and other diseases, given a heartworm test, feline leukemia test, and other tests as needed, at no cost. The rottweilers living at Primarily Primates were going to be placed in private homes through a web site adoption program, Rotts Across Texas, as soon as we could arrange for spay surgeries, planned for the following week. The attorney general / PETA takeover stopped that. Another small dog living in our sanctuary, who was abandoned a couple years ago in a backyard full of monkeys, is our sanctuary mascot, loved by all the staff, and we would never part with her.

The water at Primarily Primates is not contaminated. This is typical PETA ignorance. As an employer, Primarily Primates must provide the employees a water drinking system similar to one found in most offices. Basically a 5-gallon tub on a fountain stand. Employees must have this option available to them, or we can buy bottled water for the staff. The way the law goes is like this.... If I live at Primarily Primates in a home on our property, we can drink the well water. As long as you live over the aquifer and have well water as your main source of drinking water, you can drink the water. However, for staff not living on the property, the employer must provide an alternative drinking source. The water, if contaminated and dangerous, would not only have made the animals sick, it would have also sickened many of our neighbors who also drink well water from the same aquifer. But the animals are healthy, and our neighbors are not sick and dying either. I have been drinking well water here for 21 years, and so has Wallace Swett.

Primarily Primates has never purchased, sold, intentionally bred animals, used animal body parts for sale, or traded animals. Not ever. All animals who arrive at Primarily Primates are donated either by private individuals, zoos, research facilities, other sanctuaries, and numerous other sources. We have received a chimpanzee purchased by an individual for the exclusive purpose of retirement. We have accepted a black leopard purchased by another individual whose purpose was the same. Mr. Swett used his own personal funds to rescue a baby chimpanzee from a chimpanzee dealer who intended to sell the animal to an animal trainer. His personal sacrifice saved a desperate young chimp named Emma who now has a chance to live a natural life with others of her own kind. Mr. Swett has also personally saved other animals, including two ibis. The Ibis live in one of the largest natural enclosures at Primarily Primates. It stands 20 feet tall, 40 feet wide, and 60 feet long. It is one of the most beautiful and inspiring natural enclosures at Primarily Primates. This enclosure was built specifically for the purpose of introducing "caged" birds back into a more natural environment, like the ibis who are actually hybrid birds bred accidentally. As hybrids, these birds were unwanted by zoos and dealers. It is much like pure bred dogs... people want pure breeds and only those special people who can look beyond breeding are the ones who can appreciate mutts. This is much like Wally,... he knows that the ibis in his care were destined to be killed. Wally saved these birds from death. They now reside in an amazing new home and can fly about the enclosure. They are beautiful birds who are co-existing with many other needy caged birds, for example a blue crowned pigeon, emerald green pigeons, cockatiels, quail, and a large variety of little birds who if not for construction of this huge enclosure, would likely be living in small canary cages.

The story of Betty is one of the most awful situations in Primarily Primates' history. I am always deeply hurt by this story because I know that Betty deserved better. During the final days of Betty's life at Primarily Primates Terry Minchew and Michael Dreadt, partners living together in a home on our property, were together responsible for all of the daily animal care. Minchew was the enrichment coordinator (a job she did poorly) and Dreadt was the animal carestaff supervisor (a title he never deserved). When Betty was found dying she was morose and in her final moments of life. Swett called all of our veterinarians, but it was Sunday afternoon and he was unable to find anyone who was available. In our 28 year history this is the first time we were unable to obtain a veterinarian on an emergency basis. As the time progressed, Minchew continued to harass Swett asking for permission to shoot Betty. But Swett refused until all other options failed. It's ironic that the individual who shot Betty, Minchew, is the same person who complained in her sworn statement about Betty's death. How convenient that she "forgot" to say she was the one who killed Betty. What offends me the most about this situation is that there was a more ethical alternative. In 2005, around July, I was temporarily working at Primarily Primates on special assignment. A few of my first tasks included organizing the Primarily Primates office, animal inventory records, and veterinary supplies. Primarily Primates receives numerous donations of in kind gifts... disposable gloves, out dated medications, dart equipment and many other medical supplies. One of the first things I did was to put together all of our dart equipment. Primarily Primates had dart equipment on site -- and I mean a lot of it. We had tranquilizer guns, rifles, darts, a "dart stick," and other darting equipment. In addition, Primarily Primates also had a bottle of Phenobarbital, a drug used to humanely euthanize animals. All this equipment and the drug necessary to humanely euthanize Betty was at Primarily Primates and available for use. As a supervisor, Dreadt, and his partner Minchew, should had made sure that all medical supplies were categorized and placed for easy access. Instead, Michael Dreadt did nothing of the sort and allowed Primarily Primates supplies of medical equipment and medications to go unchecked and unused. It was Mike's failure to properly perform his duties that led to this horrible incident. Dreadt and Minchew were ill-prepared to handle the job of caring for the animals at Primarily Primates and are now looking to blame Wally for Betty's death, and to alleviate their own guilt they now want to place all the blame on Wallace Swett.

In the days ahead we will be revealing more of the truth about Primarily Primates and the individuals behind this attack.

Stephen Tello
Interim Executive Director
Primarily Primates


It is always amazing to me how people treat animals. Primates can actually learn language which was proven many years ago with some learning sign language. I hope that Betty did not understand what a gun was and that she died quickly. I believe the public gets one sided information. PETA should have checked its information before it started court proceedings. I am glad that you have been able to correct the problems. Good job. Blog editors' note: Cheri, thank you for your support. We also appreciate Stephen Tello's decision to take on the task of solving problems, delivering important information, and running the operation. We at FoA are prepared to back this effort, in order to ensure, to the best of our ability, that what the future holds in store is in the best interest of the sanctuary's residents. We are committed to the nonhuman residents' interest in living out their lives, and not to be placed in government or research institutions. You're right that apes can use human language -- although, of course, they should never be taken away from their habitat or forced to bear children in captivity in order for humans to prove this. They are clearly self-aware beings and they should be entitled to basic rights, as should all conscious animals. Until that day comes, it is the position of Friends of Animals that the animal-advocacy community has a responsibility to support sanctuaries which accept nonhuman beings from institutions of use. The editors are appreciative that this blog has received no inappropriate comments on this issue so far. Our readers should note that, while lively debate is encouraged on this blog, this particular subject involves a sanctuary struggling for its future. Thus, we will set limits here. Please be mindful when posting here that we cannot accept comments that we find harmful to nonhuman residents of any refuge. Thanks again, friends, from your devoted night-shift editor. 20 Oct 2006 :0400]

Hearing about the abuse that elephants and tigers and all the other helpless animals get in the cirus just breaks my heart. It's not fair...I want it to stop, but HOW? If there's anything I can do to help, becoming a member of something, donating funds, please let me know. I am one of the biggest animal lovers you'll ever meet. :) Kelly Blog Editor's Note: Tell your friends and family not to support the circus if it comes to your area. Write letters to your newspapers about how the animals suffer life-long imprisonment for the amusement of a small minority. If there is a peaceful demonstration against the circus in your area consider joining and supporting it. You can help put an end to the circus by supporting Friends of Animals with a donation. FoA is working hard to end all animal exploitation.

Can anyone tell me: When will apes die? Which animals are apes' friends?

Seems to me Peta has problems like everyone else but try to keep everything hid.They attack people but they have done wrong also.So if you make a mistake it's ok but if I make one crucify me.

Too bad PETA chose to use its money to tank a well-intentioned sanctuary instead of giving it needed help. Thanks for your work on this. I know PETA would generally rather kill an animal and see a sanctuary fail because of its campaign against the no-kill movement. They should be ashamed.

I lost respect for PETA long ago. I came to realize that PETA is a group of crazed fanatics that are obsessed with "saving animals" but often do more harm than good due to a lack of knowledge and professional credentials. This lack makes PETA dangerous.

Peta along with the other animal rights and protection organizations should unite as one for the main purpose is for animals. I don't like seeing articles such as this written though they may be factual instead communicate with each other to share both sides of opinions for the greater good. FoA comments: Sadly the article is completely true and was written only when Peta refused to work for the benefit of the animals at PPI.