SAEN LogoHendry County sued, warned about its captive monkeys
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Contact to DEMAND the USDA to TERMINATE Primate Products' LICENSE:

Dr Elizabeth Goldentyer
Director, USDA, Eastern Region
[email protected]
[email protected]


Thank you for seriously investigating SAEN's recent Official Complaint against PRIMATE PRODUCTS for callous negligence and issuing a citation as a result. NOW, please TERMINATE their animal dealer license. Any facility that is so NEGLIGENT that monkeys are electrocuted by heaters AND has a long history of blatant disregard of the Animal Welfare Act should NOT be allowed to endanger animals any longer. Their behavior MUST NOT be tolerated and MUST LOSE their animal dealer.


Hendry County sued, warned about its captive monkeys
By Amy Bennett Williams,, May 14, 2015

What started as a neighbor-versus-neighbor nuisance lawsuit could become a legal weapon against Hendry County's expanding monkey farm industry.

In an amendment to an ongoing complaint against the Talkin' Monkeys Project, Fort Myers attorney Steve Ramunni is alleging Hendry County violated Florida's Sunshine Law when it approved the 5-acre nonprofit sanctuary, which rescues and houses abused primates.

A similar suit filed last year claims the county approved the massive Primera monkey farm on the Lee County border without any public input and by twisting the definition of animal husbandry to include raising monkeys.

The most recent challenge is an amendment to a suit originally filed in 2012 by Talkin' Monkeys neighbors Mary and James Harrison. It claims the 15 or so primates' noises cause "discomfort, distress and inconvenience" that will "cause serious and irreparable injury" and harm their property value.

Nonsense, says Deborah Misotti, director of the Talkin' Monkeys Project. "County code enforcement and the sheriff's department have done decibel checks of the noise levels of our primates and they were all within the acceptable range," she says. "They are confined to night houses at night and they sleep from dusk to dawn."
The amendment goes beyond the nuisance factor, however, questioning the very legality of the sanctuary's permits. When Ramunni began looking at the Primera case, he noticed similarities, he says, in that the county excluded the public from the monkey farm permitting process dating back to 2001, when it approved Primate Products, near Immokalee.

"It all links together ... They interpret their code as they want it to be arbitrarily on an as-needed basis," he says. "When I was connecting the dots with the 2014 case, I said it really dates back to 2001, and it pulls our case along with it. It's a continuing pattern that's still going on today. Technically, it's evidence in my case, because these are all done out of the sunshine. I look at this more or less like a RICO. Maybe it's not criminal intent, but it's certainly a pattern of violating the Sunshine Law. It's all done out of the public forum, it's all done behind the scenes so you don't even know these things have gone on."

If Primera's permitting was done illegally, it stands to reason that Primate Products and Talkin' Monkeys was as well, Ramunni says. "To the extent the county may have improperly allowed this use to go on, the challenge is to rescind (the permits)."

Hendry spokeswoman Electa Waddell acknowledges the county received the complaint, but "Due to this being ongoing litigation Hendry County is unable to make a statement at this time," she wrote in an email.

The suit also alleges the county mischaracterized the nonprofit's relationship with FGCU. It includes a letter from an FGCU lawyer saying Misotti is not an employee nor does it conduct official research there.

Misotti is convinced she's done nothing wrong. Though Talkin' Monkeys is not an official part of the university, students volunteer and intern there regularly and Misotti intends to turn the sanctuary over to the university once she retires.

"We are an educational primate sanctuary. We are a service learning center for colleges and universities all over the world as well as Florida schools," she says. "And we're basically here as an educational facility. We do not breed. We rescue only."

Hendry commission chair Karson Turner hadn't yet seen the amended suit, but he did say the Talkin' Monkeys Project, which he calls a world-class facility, "has been the definition of a success story in Hendry County." Unlike the Harrisons, he says, "the community they're located in is overwhelmingly proud of that facility and what it does ... as a destination for students for around the world ... we're very proud of it."

On the heels of the Harrisons' complaint and the same day the Times of Trenton reported two monkeys escaped from Princeton came a letter from national primate advocate Michael Budkie to county administrator Charles Chapman warning about the danger of escapes from the county's three monkey farms, two of which the county is investigating for possible zoning violations.

The facilities endanger people living in and around the three soon to be four monkey farms in the area, Budkie wrote in a release.
"In light of ... potential public safety issues, as well as previously related animal welfare concerns, I hope that these issues will be taken into account when you are dealing with the monkey farm industry in Hendry County, and do everything in your power to close these facilities," wrote Budkie, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! a nonprofit that monitors U.S. research facilities.
In his letter, Budkie explained escapes of non-human primates are an increasingly "common occurrence" in the U.S. and that facilities that house primates typically do not inform the community of the escapes, "ignoring very real concerns of public safety."

But Jeff Rowell, president of Primate Products, says that in its 15 years in Hendry, his company can account for every animal ever housed on its site. Escapes are the exception, not the rule, Rowell says. Even so, "You can mitigate risk, but you can't eliminate it. That's why training, awareness and planning is so important."

The company is required to file annual emergency plans with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and must be bonded or insured.

Chapman says the county is carefully considering all the facts. "The activists are being heard and their concerns are being vetted," he wrote in an email. "The county is working diligently and is including outside partner organizations to ensure all information is properly evaluated to make a determination in the investigation. The final determinations and findings will be released at the conclusion of the investigation, which we expect to be in the next few weeks."

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