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Monkey Breeding Facility Lawsuit Moves Forward

PHOTO: The alleged secrecy behind a proposed monkey breeding facility has some residents of Hendry County concerned for public safety. A lawsuit filed by residents who claim they were left out of the decision-making process is now moving forward. Photo Credit: Garret Ziegler.
PHOTO: The alleged secrecy behind a proposed monkey breeding facility has some residents of Hendry County concerned for public safety. A lawsuit filed by residents who claim they were left out of the decision-making process is now moving forward. Photo Credit: Garret Ziegler.
March 10, 2015

LABELLE, Fla. - Hendry County residents can begin to breathe a sigh of relief, as a lawsuit filed on their behalf over the building of a secretive monkey breeding facility is beginning to move forward.

Christopher Berry, a lawyer with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, is the lead attorney representing residents who filed a complaint against the county for approving a monkey breeding facility on approximately 50 acres without informing the public.

Berry says that's against the law. Hendry County moved to dismiss the complaint filed by residents, but Circuit Judge James Sloan refused to dismiss it.

"The whole point of Florida's Sunshine Law is to ensure the public has the right to participate in important decisions that affect them," says Berry.

According to Berry, residents didn't find out about the facility's approval until after the fact. He says records show that SoFlo Ag, the company behind the facility, plans to bring 3,200 monkeys from overseas to breed and sell for use in lab experiments. One concern is they could bring diseases like Ebola and tuberculosis with them.

Berry says the "secretive nature" of the company behind the plan is especially troubling.

"Quite frankly, the business behind this primate facility is one of the most secretive and suspicious operations I've ever seen," he says. "Neither the community nor the county should be comfortable letting them build this facility without more information."

Berry says SoFlo Ag registered a shell corporation as its managing member, but there are no names or phone numbers available for either company. He says the only address listed for the headquarters is a U.S. Post Office box.

Investigations will continue as the suit moves forward, and according to the county, the complaint will be addressed.

According to a news release from county administrator Charles Chapman, "Hendry County stands by the rights provided to our property owners contained within the language of our comprehensive plan and land development code."

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - FL