Lawmakers call for review of monkey stimulus spending
By Matt Grant at Fox 4
HENDRY COUNTY – A Fox 4 investigation is creating a ripple effect through Washington D.C.
Two Florida lawmakers are now calling for an “immediate suspension” of the government’s contracts with Primate Products, an animal research facility awarded $1.3 million in stimulus money.
Fox 4 discovered the contract with Primate Products didn’t create a single job.
Primate Products has a location miles behind the Hendry County Prison, off of a long dirt road. They import animals from all over the world for scientific research.
Last fall, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), paid Primate Products $1.3 million, using stimulus money meant for spurring economic growth and saving or creating jobs.
Here’s the break down: The feds gave Primate Products nearly $538,000 to buy 108 monkeys for flu virus experiments. They were also given $792,000 from a pool of $17 million to develop a universal flu vaccine.
“I think it’s great that you’re doing the story,” said Rep. Connie Mack, “and that you’ve uncovered this.”
Before our story even ran, the southwest Florida congressman sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asking for an explanation as to how the money given to Primate Products fits in with the goals of the stimulus.
“We were told the stimulus package was going to create jobs,” said Mack. “This is what people are so frustrated about – that the government is spending money on things that the people don’t need, don’t want and don’t deserve.”
And Mack isn’t alone. Two more Florida lawmakers – Rep. Alcee Hastings and Rep. Ted Deutch – are now calling for an immediate suspension of the government’s contracts with Primate Products.
In a joint letter, they raise concerns of possible “animal mistreatment,” alleging “insufficient housing conditions,” “prolonged use of restraints,” and “failure of adequate employee oversight.”
The president of Primate Products Don Bradford again declined our request for an interview. But he denies any accusations of abuse, saying the USDA has done three “targeted inspections” this year and found nothing wrong.
Despite Bradford saying there were “no stipulations” the money given to them be used to create jobs, he now says his company hired five people with that $1.3 million.
Fox 4 left messages and e-mails with Health and Human Services to see if they are in fact investigation but have yet to hear back..