Originally posted on MercuryNews.com
Menlo Park research facility refuses to let humane society see monkey that bit worker
A Menlo Park research facility Monday refused to allow a humane society representative to check up on a monkey that bit a female lab worker the day before.
SRI International officials said the lab worker is OK and because their facility is under federal oversight, the Peninsula Humane Society doesn’t have to be given access to its research animals.
“The worker … received a very minor injury to the finger, was treated onsite by emergency response personnel and then at a local medical facility,” SRI said in a statement released Monday. “The worker is fine and returned to work on Monday.”
The research facility provided little information about the biting incident, other than to say it occurred “during a routine procedure.”
At 9:11 a.m. Sunday, Menlo Park police received a call from SRI security reporting that a woman had passed out after being bitten by a monkey, said police spokeswoman Nicole Acker.
When officers arrived, they found the woman conscious and passed the matter on to Menlo Park Fire Protection District firefighters, who had also arrived on the scene, Acker said. No police report was filed.
Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman said the report he received from the battalion chief on duty Sunday described the woman’s bite wound as minor.
“She self-transported to the hospital,” Schapelhouman said. He said he had not been told the woman had passed out, nor had the firefighters who arrived at the scene Sunday.
“Typically if someone loses consciousness, then we’re going to be a little more insistent that they go the hospital other than self-transporting,” he said.
Because an animal bite occurred, Menlo Park police alerted the Peninsula Humane Society, which is under county contract to follow up on such incidents. The organization is supposed to check whether an animal that bites a human poses a continued threat, is vaccinated for such diseases as rabies, and might need to be quarantined, said John Conley, deputy director of public health for San Mateo County.
“At this point, neither they (the humane society) nor we know how severe the bite is,” Conley said. “We’d like PHS to see the animal.”
SRI International, which was founded as the Stanford Research Institute but separated from the university in 1970 as an independent nonprofit, confirmed Monday that a trained lab worker was bitten by a Macaque monkey. But except to say the bite was minor and the worker is fine, the research facility did not elaborate.
The humane society was rebuffed twice by the research facility, first on Sunday after the incident was reported and again on Monday when it sent a representative to see the monkey.
SRI spokeswoman Dina Basin said in an e-mail that the research facility has the authority to refuse a visit because it is “a USDA-registered research facility that falls under Federal jurisdiction.” She noted that SRI had its own U.S. Department of Agriculture-registered veterinarian onsite.
While refusing to disclose specific details about its research programs and animal testing, SRI said in the statement that it “uses animals in bioscience research only when there is no viable alternative,” and that the work is done “ethically and humanely.”
The organization also stated that animal testing is required by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration to ensure the safety of products. SRI’s biomedical research focuses on such diseases as Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, influenza, malaria and tuberculosis.
Justin Goodman, a spokesman with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said there is no humane way to test animals and he wasn’t surprised to hear a monkey had attacked a lab worker.
“Animals that are being abused are going to try and defend themselves,” said Goodman, the associate director of PETA Laboratory Investigations.
He said SRI’s refusal to let the Peninsula Humane Society see the monkey was also expected.
“Facilities that do animal research spend a lot of time, resources and money to insulate what they do to animals from public scrutiny,” he said. “And that includes keeping people out from the areas where the animals routinely go through abuse.”
No report of the incident was filed by mid-day Monday with the California Occupational Health and Safety Administration by the police, fire department or hospital, according to Krisann Chasarik, a spokeswoman for the agency. She added that none would be required if there was not a “serious injury.”
An internal report on the incident is being prepared, according to the SRI statement.
E-mail Bonnie Eslinger at email@example.com.