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The Physicians Committee



Seven Chandler Residents, PCRM Sue City over Animal-Testing Lab

PCRM’s fight against a planned animal-testing facility in Arizona is heating up. After Covance Laboratories took another step toward the construction of a testing laboratory in Chandler, Ariz., seven city residents and PCRM filed a lawsuit July 2 in Maricopa County Superior Court. The lawsuit accuses city officials of violating the Arizona Open Meeting Act and city ordinances in allowing Covance to build its facility in the Chandler Airpark.

Many residents are concerned about Covance’s poor track record regarding animal welfare issues. Undercover footage from another location shows lab personnel violently throwing terrified monkeys into their cages, jamming feeding tubes into restrained monkeys’ noses, and stuffing them into plastic restraint tubes. The company was recently investigated and fined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture based on documented allegations of striking, choking, and tormenting primates at its Virginia facility.

The Chandler plaintiffs also believe the laboratory could threaten public health. They are asking the court to void the building permit and rezoning that enabled Covance to break ground recently on the 300,000-square-foot facility planned for the southwest corner of Gilbert and Ryan roads in Chandler. Covance has repeatedly imported primates infected with tuberculosis, Ebola, and other dangerous diseases. The company has also refused to describe how it will safely dispose of the thousands of drug- and chemical-laden animal carcasses it will generate each year.

The lawsuit against the city of Chandler consists of three main allegations:

  • Chandler city officials participated in nonpublic meetings about Covance in which they discussed Covance’s plan to secretly abandon its original building site in favor of the Airpark property, which was rezoned by a front organization, violating Arizona’s Open Meeting Law.
  • In violation of state law and the Chandler City Code, Chandler failed to give proper notice of two public hearings.
  • The approval of the building permits by the city of Chandler was in violation of its own zoning ordinance because it appears that a huge percentage of Covance’s facility will be devoted to the operation of a kennel/veterinarian clinic. The zoning ordinance for the city of Chandler does not allow either of these uses within the zoning presently applicable to the Airpark property.

“Covance’s animal experimentation facility could expose Chandler residents to hazards ranging from infectious diseases to air and water pollution,” said Dan Kinburn, Esq., PCRM’s general counsel. “Instead of protecting Chandler from these health risks, city officials illegally collaborated with Covance to keep citizens in the dark and out of the decision-making process.”

In a recent opinion piece in The Arizona Republic, plaintiff Eleanor Weeden recalled when she lived in northern Virginia in 1989 and monkeys at the nearby Covance (then under the name Hazelton) facility were found to carry the Ebola virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent in a tactical team to seal off the building, and property values near the facility dropped.



 

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