State News

PETA sees cat, dog abuse at N.C. lab

Posted September 8, 2010

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— An animal-welfare group believes that workers at a North Carolina research lab abused dogs, cats and rabbits, and the activists released what they said was undercover video of caretakers handling the animals violently.

A local prosecutor and the company’s president said Wednesday that they are now taking a close look.

Professional Laboratory and Research Services Inc., which has a facility in Corapeake near the Virginia border, is hired by pharmaceutical firms to test animal-care products such as flea preventatives. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said that one of its investigators was hired as an animal caretaker and worked from December 2009 until September.

Helen Sonenshine, the company president who is not involved in day-to-day operations, confirmed that the video was taken at the company’s facility and included footage of company employees. Officials were reviewing the footage, and Sonenshine said the company will fire anyone if they have done anything contrary to protocols on how to treat animals.

“I am disgusted. I am appalled,” she said after viewing the clips. “This is not what we’re about. We’re about the health of the animals.”

U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections show no sign of recent violations.

PETA referred videos, photos and a narrative to local prosecutors. Gates County District Attorney Frank Parrish said his office is reviewing the report and will follow up with further investigation to determine whether or not criminal charges should be filed.

“We will certainly be very thorough about looking at these issues,” he said.

WRAL News was looking into what companies' products are tested at the PLRS lab.

In one scene of the video released Wednesday by PETA, a beagle cowers in the corner of its cage as a person approaches, derisively describing the dog’s condition before snatching it by the back of the neck, “They act like they’ve been abused.”

The PETA worker and video depict squalid conditions of animals living in their own excrement. PETA contends that workers sprayed the animals with harsh chemicals, lifted rabbits by their ears and puppies by their throats, and violently threw cats into their cages.

Another clip shows an employee letting a cat grasp a fence with its claw before yanking it in an apparent attempt to rip off its nails, according to PETA’s account of the video.

"Do it so I can pull your nails out when you do," a female worker with her face blurred out says in the video.

In another portion, a caretaker drops a dog back to the ground before pushing it into the cage with a foot. Another scene shows a dog squirming through a tooth removal as workers acknowledge that the sedation drug is a couple of years past its expiration and might not be working very well.

"It expired in '07. Maybe that's why it doesn't work well," an off-screen male worker says in the video.

In another clip of the video, which was edited by PETA, a male worker asks a female worker if animals had been treated for sores that he reported. She responds that they weren't.

"Because, listen, if you've got 10 dogs here that have the same problem, it's not a problem. It's a living condition here," the female employee says in PETA's video. "We need to write up things that are abnormal. That is normal for life here."

PETA believes the company violated several parts of The Animal Welfare act, including improper veterinary care, improper handling of animals and improper cleaning procedures. It has filed or plans to file complaints with both regulatory agencies and law enforcement.

“Violence seems to be the guiding principle at this laboratory,” said Kathy Guillermo, vice president of laboratory investigations at PETA. “The only time the animals get some attention is when something painful or invasive is done to them.”

The animal rights group also complained about the testing procedures used at the site. Workers at the facility grew ticks on the rabbits even though PETA says there are non-animal methods that have been in use for years.

“There’s simply no excuse,” Guillermo said.

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  • IAMAmerican Sep 16, 2010

    We need PETA, Thank God for PETA, I know they can be extreme sometimes but look at all the good they've done!!!!! I am all for them. I almost joined them at one point but they some times break the law and I had 2 small children and no father around!!! There's no need for testing on poor defendless animals............I don't care what they say, it's torture.

  • jjohnson137 Sep 10, 2010

    I just can't get the haunting images of the beagle and cat out of my mind. I woke up crying about this last night, lying there & wondering if these poor babies will ever get a chance to realize some true care & love. They just do not deserve this way of NON-Life. Someone, please,please save them. I wish I knew what to do to help them. Also, I just would NEVER use any product that is tested on poor,helpless animals if I knew what these products are--PLEASE NOTIFY CONSUMERS!! PLEASE WRAL STAFF, or anyone else--do not give up the FIGHT to END this INHUMANE treatment of animals. It just does not make any sense. Keep us caring Citizens posted on any current updates or what we can do to assist to STOP this cruelty. If I could foster any of these poor babies, please notify. Thank YOU.

  • mejenn35 Sep 10, 2010

    I hope that WRAL and PETA aggressively follows up on this to get proof that this place is either shut down or cleaned up AND that WRAL sends to ALL news media the products that result from the tests in this lab.... I do NOT want to buy or use or invest in it/them. This story made it into the Wall Street Journal - I'm in Washington D.C.! Incredibly easy to google this story too! PETA is absolutely right - the testing here is archaic/outdated/completely unnecessary these days. And if Ms. Sonenshine can, she should file charges against her own employees associated with this - surely these workers broke some laws and company rules, AND they completely invalidated all the testing of the products. And where is a local VET to see to the day-to-day care of these animals? If these animals are released for adoption, I hope I hear about it - I'll be first in line to adopt. Someone shut this ridiculous joke of a lab down...waste of investors money and some truly precious lives.

  • grasscruncher Sep 9, 2010

    It was probably one of the most disturbing news/video I've seen.Got so upset yesterday after viewing it on WRAL's Website that I had to leave work early.I just had no clue that they could treat the research animals so cruelly.It's bad enough that they have to endure the research procedures but then to be kicked & thrown into their cages afterwards is horrible.What I am asking is WRAL,PLEASE DO NOT DROP THIS STORY!!!Let us know the outcome!!And if you could find out what company hired this research facility to test these products.I would not want to buy their products and support this type of abuse.Like the report said,there are plenty of good products out there already.This type of research sounds so useless.I know they have to do research on animals and that can't be stopped.But their is a line, and it has been crossed in this case to the extreme.They should at least have comfortable living space.And be handled by persons that care about animals, not obvious animal haters.

  • ConcernedNCarolinian Sep 9, 2010

    Remember everyone, once these animals are released from this awful situation (if that is what is determined), they will be turned over to the animal shelter in Gates County. Let's make sure that we're there for them - meaning adopt them. Please don't let Clemetine suffer another day.

  • jjohnson137 Sep 9, 2010

    This was very disturbing. I couldn't help but think about these poor animals ever since viewing this video. What kind of person can treat any animal in these manners & feel good about themselves? People like this have deep-seeded psychological problems. What a non-life these poor animals live. We have 4 dogs & we certainly can never provide them as much comfort & joy as what they bring to our lives. They love & respect US unconditionally. They may not be able to speak English or any other Language, but they are SO SMART & IN Tune to our feelings. Shame on Humans that they are able to perform such atrocious acts towards animals. But you know, at the end of their unkind, Human acts in LIFE, they will remember and be repaid ten-fold. GOD will prevail. Have mercy on your Souls. Please repent & do different!! Jazzy*01

  • carolinagal78 Sep 9, 2010

    Well for once it sounds like PETA has done something good.I'm an animal lover myself. I dont agree w/the way they act most of the time but I agree that this labs needs to be corrected. I dont understand how people can be so cruel. They cant tell you when they are in pain or when they are hungry. It really sad cause animals will love you unconditionally.

  • annemarek Sep 8, 2010

    If these people are cruel to animals they will be cruel to people. It is all about respecting living things.

  • Lickad Sep 8, 2010

    Lets do human testing on military, prisoners and mental hospitals just like the old days.

  • ncmickey Sep 8, 2010

    That video is very hard to watch....

    Sickening and disgusting. I say put the "handlers" in the cages for a few months....

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