Responses at bottom of page
October 16, 2006
Ms. Janet Beasley
Dear Ms. Beasley:
I am writing in regard to an email issued by Patricia Feral about our organization’s efforts to help animals suffering at Primarily Primates, Inc. (PPI). I’m sure you already know that FoA is giving PPI thousands of dollars to pay for its attorneys and perhaps you have approved these expenses. But since you are a FoA board member, I thought it worthwhile to write to and point out certain inescapable facts that will reflect very badly on FoA if it continues to aid and abet Wallace Swett who has not only failed in his duties to animals but to donors. I beg you to look into the reasons for Patricia’s and Lee Hall’s support of Wallace Swett because FoA’s support of him translates into action taken against animals.
You will see from the attached court document that Primarily Primates is now in receivership as ordered by the Travis County, Texas Probate Court at the request of the State Attorney General. Yet Patricia Feral asks that donations for PPI be sent to Friends of Animals. This is unethical and perhaps even illegal. It is a mystery as to why Patricia and Lee continue to support PPI when animals have suffered so horrendously under Mr. Swett’s directorship and that of Stephen Tello and, in fact, most of the PPI trustees who have ignored the facility’s failure to provide veterinary care and its almost unbelievably cruel "philosophy" that captive chimpanzees and other animals should not be given enrichment devices which offer them so much comfort.
On Friday evening, October 13, blankets were handed out to all of the chimpanzees at PPI. The animals were overjoyed by this simple gesture, rubbing the blankets over their faces and huddling and nesting with them in corners when all they previously had was hard concrete on which to lie. Since Friday evening, we have discovered that conditions at PPI are much worse than previously thought. The veterinarians and technicians are overwhelmed by the number of sick and injured animals – they are in triage mode – all because Wallace Swett is an animal hoarder and in part because FoA has supported him. The fact that he refuses to adopt out even the poor dogs who have gone insane in their cages from years of confinement is just one indication of the hoarding pathology.
The Texas Health Department recently informed Mr. Swett that he must inform PPI staff that they cannot drink the water at PPI because the raw animal sewage has seeped into the ground water, contaminating it. This contamination may reach farther than PPI’s property. PPI has never had a
sewage system and animals are exposed year-round to open sewage pits – now this negligence has caused environmental damage.
You may know that Mr. Swett has purchased an infant chimpanzee from an animal dealer, a $30,000-$50,000 deal that is as antithetical to the mission of a true sanctuary as a deal can be. He has also purchased birds only to cage them – the poor Egyptian Ibis on PPI’s property were just bought a short time ago – Wallace Swett paid $500 for each bird at a seedy Midwest animal auction. They are in the tiniest of cages – all because Mr. Swett wanted to possess them. Is this the type of operation FoA wants to support?
If FoA continues to pay for Mr. Swett’s legal bills, it will be shelling out quite a bit of money that might be used to the animals’ advantage rather than their detriment.
There is no reputable animal protection group that believes PPI is a decent place for animals. Just look at the photo of Betty on www.peta.org, one of the Air Force chimpanzees, lying in her own waste while fire ants swarm over her poor emaciated body, biting and stinging. PPI staff begged Wally Swett to call a veterinarian but they eventually had to put 3 bullets in Betty’s head to end her suffering. This is what FoA is supporting. There is something very wrong here.
Back in 1993-1994, the Texas AG’s office received a myriad of complaints about PPI and its failure to properly care for animals and its failure to properly spend donations. At that time, a high-powered law firm was hired and the AG at the time, Dan Morales, told his office to back off filing the complaint against Wallace Swett and Stephen Tello. You might ask if FoA paid his legal fees back then. Wallace Swett escaped the scrutiny that his cruelly-run operation deserved back in the early 90’s, but the reputation of running the facility cruelly has never dissipated, and for good reason. More staff and volunteers came forward in August 2005, making the same complaints that were heard back in 1993.
Please let me know if you have any questions. I can be reached at 757-962-8334. PETA does not want to run PPI or any sanctuary for that matter. We only want the suffering to stop. We want FoA to stop supporting the suffering of animals at PPI. Please may I hear from you? Thank you for your attention to this very important matter.
Very truly yours,
Mary Beth Sweetland, Senior VP
Director, Research & Investigations Department
As the Interim Executive Director of Primarily Primates, this letter is in response to the Mary Beth Sweetland letter of October 16, 2006 sent to the Board of Directors of Friends of Animals.
Sweetland asks why Friends of Animals is helping to aid and abet Wallace Swett. First of all, Wallace Swett has not been the president or the executive director for about 2 months, a fact that PETA chooses to conveniently ignore. For the past two months I have been running the sanctuary. Second, Friends of Animals supports our sanctuary and our animals and not individuals. And I am sure Friends of Animals will have plenty to say in the future about PETA's hideous attack against a nonprofit animal sanctuary that has saved hundreds of animals from death and abuse, and why PETA prefers to attack us rather than going after the thousands of breeders, dealers and exhibitors who truly are abusing animals. We will have more to say too. As I write, PETA, consistent with their past record of animal care, is making plans to kill Primarily Primates' animals rather than providing for their long term care.
Primarily Primates uses a large staff of veterinarians, depending on their special field of expertise. For example, just within the past 6 weeks, I have witnessed the following veterinary medical care: Dr. Kirk, a primate specialist, and our primary veterinarian, has visited our sanctuary every week. She has collected fecal samples and blood on numerous chimpanzees, including those of the OSU case, two baboons, and one bonnet macaque. When needed, she has preformed necropsies. Dr. Thomas Vice has also performed necropsies in the past, and recently treated a colobus monkey.
In addition, Dr. Kathy Braske performed a culture on a Colobus monkey, and Dr. J. Pat Mims has provided veterinary medical consultation. I have also consulted with Dr. Thomas Butler for advice when Oliver our elderly chimpanzee was experiencing an apparent stroke. Lastly, I was in contact with Dr. Pat Frost who aided Primarily Primates by donating HI-Pro monkey chow to help the OSU chimpanzees. They are refusing to eat any other primate diet other than the one they were fed at OSU. In total, 6 veterinarians have assisted me in the last 6 weeks with animal care and medical emergencies.
Regarding the few dogs we have, they are all exercised every day by the staff and are up to date on their shots. Only 2 weeks ago, on St Francis day, I began a new employee benefit, employee pet day, and the all the dogs and cats of our employees and those of Primarily Primates were vaccinated against rabies and other diseases, given a heartworm test, feline leukemia test, and other tests as needed, at no cost.
The rottweilers living at Primarily Primates were going to be placed in private homes through a web site adoption program, Rotts Across Texas, as soon as we could arrange for spay surgeries, planned for the following week. The attorney general / PETA takeover stopped that. Another small dog living in our sanctuary, who was abandoned a couple years ago in a backyard full of monkeys, is our sanctuary mascot, loved by all the staff, and we would never part with her.
Primarily Primates has never purchased, sold, intentionally bred animals, used animal body parts for sale, or traded animals. Not ever. All animals who arrive at Primarily Primates are donated either by private individuals, zoos, research facilities, other sanctuaries, and numerous other sources. We have received a chimpanzee purchased by an individual for the exclusive purpose of retirement. We have accepted a black leopard purchased by another individual whose purpose was the same.
Mr. Swett used his own personal funds to rescue a baby chimpanzee from a chimpanzee dealer who intended to sell the animal to an animal trainer. His personal sacrifice saved a desperate young chimp named Emma who now has a chance to live a natural life with others of her own kind. Mr. Swett has also personally saved other animals, including two ibis. The Ibis live in one of the largest natural enclosures at Primarily Primates. It stands 20 feet tall, 40 feet wide, and 60 feet long. It is one of the most beautiful and inspiring natural enclosures at Primarily Primates.
This enclosure was built specifically for the purpose of introducing "caged" birds back into a more natural environment, like the ibis who are actually hybrid birds bred accidentally.
As hybrids, these birds were unwanted by zoos and dealers.
It is much like pure bred dogs... people want pure breeds and only those special people who can look beyond breeding are the ones who can appreciate mutts. This is much like Wally,... he knows that the ibis in his care were destined to be killed. Wally saved these birds from death. They now reside in an amazing new home and can fly about the enclosure.
They are beautiful birds who are co-existing with many other needy caged birds, for example a blue crowned pigeon, emerald green pigeons, cockatiels, quail, and a large variety of little birds who if not for construction of this huge enclosure, would likely be living in small canary cages.
Interim Executive Director
Sanctuary takeover called animals' 'lucky day'
At one time, Primarily Primates was a sanctuary for some of America's greatest pioneers in science: chimps subjected to sleep deprivation, arthritis studies or brain tests, all part of experiments touted for the good of humankind.
But nearly three decades after its founding, the refuge looks nothing like the animal retirement home whose managers once counted game show host Bob Barker and Walt Disney Productions among its donors.
Now the shriek of animals and the smell of urine fill the air. There is no septic system on the property and the heating system doesn't work, according to officials close to what has become a controversy there.
Most primates sleep on hard concrete and stare out between the bars of their cages, packed together on property that is still concealed from its residential neighbors in far Northwest Bexar County behind the thick Hill Country foliage.
Circumstances at the facility came to light Friday after the Texas attorney general's office placed the site under court-ordered management. State officials cited the deplorable conditions and mismanagement of donations.
"That was these animals' lucky day," said wildlife preservationist Lee Theisen-Watt, named receiver of Primarily Primates.
She will oversee the site and determine how best to rehabilitate it.
No charges have been filed against the facility's managers or its founder, Wallace Swett. He still lives in a house on the Primarily Primates property.
Swett could not be reached for comment Sunday.
But the situation at the sanctuary, in the 26000 block of Dull Knife Trail, extends far beyond Bexar County, officials said.
"Most zoos in the country have put animals here," said Mel Richardson, a veterinarian formerly with the San Antonio Zoo who now practices in California.
He was called to San Antonio to help assess the health of animals at the site.
Past celebrity primate guests included about 30 chimps used in America's space race experiments. Oliver, the chimp that walked upright and was once mistakenly earmarked as the evolutionary missing link, still lives here.
Sanctuaries are often the only repositories for injured or older animals or animals no longer useful in experiments, or because the zoos where they were raised are overcrowded.
Sanctuaries themselves often are full and go unchecked by government authorities because they don't fall under the umbrella of the Animal Welfare Act, Richardson said.
At Primarily Primates, a staff of about five cared for more than 800 animals, Theisen-Watt said.
That included a menagerie of other creatures kept on the property, including leopards, a lion, 75 guinea pigs, some mice, dogs and various birds, said Leana Stormont, legal counsel with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
PETA filed a complaint with the attorney general's office about the facility in May.
Many animals were improperly secured, Richardson said. The lion's cage had no roof.
Chimpanzees, strong and sometimes violent, need four locks on their cages, but only one was on them, he said.
Animal experts have expressed concern about contamination in light of the disease and drug experiments conducted on many of the primates before they came to the sanctuary.
Previous staff members hosed down the cages and washed the feces onto the ground, Stormont said. All of the waste eventually flowed into a large cesspool on the property or into Leon Creek.
Millions of dollars may be needed to bring the facility back to an acceptable state, Stormont estimated. Many animals will probably be removed to other facilities.
The state could choose to dissolve all of the corporation's assets or reinstate it if the sanctuary again serves its original purpose to care for the animals, Theisen-Watt said.
In the meantime, workers hope to provide the animals a better quality of life than what they'd experienced for many years.
"That's our immediate goal, to provide immediate relief for every single animal," Theisen-Watt said.
As she walked around the facility two days after the seizure, Stormont cooed to one macaque monkey, living alone in a round, metal cage with only two plastic toys for play. It reached its paws through the bars, grabbing at the bits of Banana Nut Crunch cereal she threw to it.
"These (animals) don't have a lot to look forward to," Richardson said.
Anyone wishing to help the rehabilitation effort or to donate to it can call (830) 755-4616.
Dear Janet, Sally, and Carol,
I barely know where to start. First let me say that I have worked with PETA for 18 years and I am 52-years old. I have worked in the financial industry (Merrill Lynch, E.F. Hutton, and others) and have acquired enough knowledge and wisdom to recognize integrity, and lack of integrity, when I see it. PETA is an organization of integrity. I would not have worked for PETA for 18 years if I had a shred of evidence otherwise. I’m asking you to believe me when you have no factual basis for that belief. But I will give you facts about Primarily Primates that cannot be disputed because they have been authenticated through multiple affidavits and corroboration of the information in those affidavits. I will address certain parts of the rant by Stephen Tello that is posted on FoA’s website. Before I do that, let me say that I do not now, nor will I ever, understand why Priscilla has given charitable contributions from FoA’s members to a fall-down drunk who has used PPI funds to purchase alcohol, cigarettes, and heavens knows what else, and has left ill and injured animals to suffer and die in their cages. Bluntly put, PPI’s interim director, Stephen Tello lies and FoA is helping to spread those lies. Below you will find facts and the basis for these facts can be found in Bexar County district court documents and affidavits, some of which are on our Website, www.Peta.org:Dr. Kirk is not a primate specialist. In fact, she had not touched a primate for almost 25 years until PPI brought her on as a "consulting" vet after we filed suit on behalf on the OSU chimpanzees and capuchins. A vet tech could do fecals and bloods on animals. It is wrong for Tello try to pass this off as good veterinary care. Notice that he says Dr. Kirk has done necropsies (animal autopsies). It’s easy to handle primates when they’re dead and many have died at PPI – unnecessarily.
Thomas Vice is the veterinarian who sedated Kermit, the alpha male chimpanzee from OSU, when he arrived at PPI. Kermit was left in his transport cage where he died within minutes. Vice is not a chimpanzee veterinarian. Dr. Vice provided a vial of ketamine, a DEA-controlled substance, to Wallace Swett for use on Betty, a chimpanzee who needed to be sedated after she gave birth to a full-term stillborn infant. When a PPI technician asked Swett for the ketamine Swett replied "What ketamine? We don’t have any ketamine." Ketamine is also used as a recreational drug. Betty was not sedated for veterinary care and she ended up dying in her cage while being stung by fire ants. We have filed a complaint with the Texas DEA regarding this matter.
J. Patrick Mims provided veterinary treatment for PPI animals brought to him in dire straits. Dr. Mims was so appalled by the treatment of the animals at PPI that he resigned as a PPI trustee. Tello says he "was in contact with Dr. Pat Frost who aided [PPI] by donating HI-pro monkey chow to help the OSU chimpanzees." Is this somehow impressive that Dr. Frost helped him get HI-pro monkey chow? To us this paints a picture of insolvency.
Stephen Tello and Wallace Swett both, in front of attorneys Eric Turton (PPI) and Lisa Vance (PETA), as well as the court-appointed Master, Charles Jackson, raged on about why chimpanzees and other primates should not be provided with enrichment. They both stated that it is PPI’s philosophy not to provide toys and blankets to primates because in the wild they don’t have them. This is lunacy. I’m sure as compassionate women you understand that we owe captive animals some mitigation of their lost freedom and that this is often supplied through food and toy enrichment. Dr. Jane Goodall can tell you that this is the only decent thing to do. But in his diatribe on FoA’s Website Tello tries to justify the lack of food enrichment at PPI by stating that there are "2 chimpanzees with histories of hemorrhoids and other problems which result from the intake of … fiber." So at PPI this meant that NO primate can have food enrichment. This is lunacy. He says that blankets are not good "for some primates." So at PPI this meant that NO primate should get a blanket. This is also lunacy. But it is not just lunacy. It is a lie. The real reasons animals don’t get the smallest of breaks at PPI is because the cages were designed so poorly and cheaply that people cannot get in and out of them to retrieve items and sanitize them; that the money given by donors that could be used for food and other enrichment is used on alcohol and purchases of animals at exotic animal auctions – e.g., the infant chimpanzee and the Egyptian ibis purchased by Swett. Just yesterday, $1000 of fresh produce – all kinds of fruits and greens – was delivered to PPI. One of the staff called me on the verge of tears to tell me about one of the baboons who was desperate for more after her bucket was empty. The staffer couldn’t stand the thought that these animals had been without these fundamental decencies for so many years. Tello’s comments about chimpanzees and their health being endangered by blankets is just proof of how little knowledge he has if indeed he is serious about what he wrote: "Yes, it is great to give the chimps a blanket, but in doing so, they are giving the chimps a false sense of heat and they will sleep out at night in the middle of the coldest times of the year, and die." This, again, is lunacy, absolute lunacy.
PPI staff has admitted that the Rottweiler dogs have never been out of their kennel. Never. They have been there since they were puppies. Staff tried to get Swett to allow them to build a large enclosure for the dogs but he refused.
The sanctuary "mascot" dog – a sweet little dog – was left in the kennel with no relief from her boredom and filth and was beyond desperate for attention. When straw was given to the dogs this week their reaction was pure unadulterated joy. Imagine having nothing but hard substrate on which to lie year after year.
Notes taken by Stephen Tello say that the well water at PPI is contaminated and that the Texas Department of Health prohibits drinking from it.
Tello is lying when he says that PPI has never purchased, sold, or intentionally bred animals. When you put male and female animals in the same enclosure, they breed unless you act responsibly and neuter them. There are approximately 40 Patagonian Hares at PPI and 40 guinea pigs due to unchecked breeding. Numerous primates have been born at PPI, most recently infant marmosets. Chimpanzees have also been born at PPI. Please read about Nico Blue in John Fisher’s affidavit at www.peta.org. Emma, the infant chimpanzee purchased by Swett, was locked in a back bedroom of Swett’s house where she destroyed everything out of frustration. Emma now exhibits horrendous stereotypical behavior because she was kept inside by Swett when, as a wild animal, she should have been introduced to a group of her own species. Keeping baby chimpanzees inside a house with Swett does not comport with PPI’s alleged "philosophy." Perhaps there is a reason for his keeping these infants inside with him that we don’t know about. More may well be revealed. When Swett purchased the two Ibis from a horrendous animal auction he gave directions to his worker not to kill the birds because he had paid $500 for each of them. Swett also purchased birds over the internet. This is collecting/hoarding. This is not Swett’s money, it is donors’ money. Purchasing animals is antithetical to the practices of any decent sanctuary.
The staff and volunteers who have come forward about the atrocities at PPI bear no grudge against Wally Swett or Stephen Tello – they were just tired of seeing animals suffering. Most of the suffering of animals at PPI occurred while Stephen Tello was on the board. If Betty’s death is the fault of everyone else but Swett and Tello, then shame on them for not having a better handle on what was going on at that wretched facility. But the truth is that Betty had to be shot by staff who could no longer wait and watch her suffer as Swett stood in a drunken stupor lying about having contacted a vet. The vet that he claimed was called confirmed later that Swett had never asked her to come out. There is a wonderful Website on animal hoarders at Tufts University’s site and one of the universal signs of a hoarder is that they will make excuses for everything that happens to animals under their "care." And it’s always someone else’s fault. Tello lies about many things in his rant but his lies about some of the good people who have stayed at PPI, tried to make changes, and left in disgust, or who were fired because they wanted animals treated properly, are astounding. These whistleblowers are consistent – they go back to 1992 – and they are people who are still working for animals, just somewhere else.
Take a look at the photo of the macaw attached to this email. It looks as if it’s been photo-shopped – a beautiful macaw head on a chicken carcass. But that’s how badly these birds self-mutilated at PPI. They were inside a cage in a room for two years. When the Houston SPCA brought them out of the room on Wednesday, slowly adjusting their eyes to sunlight, the birds were stock-still and absolutely silent for a good long time. All of a sudden they began whistling and chattering – fresh air and sunshine for the first time in two years. I suppose Tello will tell us that the birds arrived that way and that they had a goat vet examine the birds and that they don’t really need their feathers and that self-mutilation is really good for birds.
Priscilla Feral’s support of PPI is ugly and wrong. Thank you for reading this email.
Mary Beth Sweetland
Senior Vice President
Research & Investigations Dept.
501 Front St.
Norfolk, Va. 23510
Please include all previous email correspondence.
Houston SPCA President's affidavit about PPI: http://peta.org/pdfs/affidavitPM28AUG06.pdf
The Texas Attorney General’s Office has acted on PETA’s complaint alleging misuse of charitable funds and downright cruel conditions at Primarily Primates, including sewage-contaminated water and housing chimpanzees, monkeys, and birds in filthy, barren, dank, dark cells with nothing to see or do. Patricia Mercer, head of the Houston SPCA, provided an affidavit of what she found at Primarily Primates in August, including inadequate, unsafe, and unsanitary enclosures and chronic understaffing. On October 13, Texas government officials seized the facility and turned over animal care and financial operations to a court-appointed receiver.
What’s Happening Now
At this very moment, the court’s receiver, Lee Theisen-Watt, who has more than 20 years of primate and rehabilitation experience, is assessing the animals’ medical conditions and seeking reputable zoos and true sanctuaries to help provide care and new homes for the animals. PETA personnel are helping vets with triage and providing fresh fruit and care.
Animal Hell at Primarily Primates
Animals were found in desperate straits:
· Chimpanzees had classic symptoms of stress, constantly pacing and circling; some had pulled out patches of their own hair.
· Chimpanzee Darrell was imprisoned in a cramped, dark cell.
What a Difference Now!
Off to new, GOOD homes: two olive baboons, one bonnet macaque, three elderly and underweight capuchins, an Egyptian goose with a bad leg, and two macaws who had plucked out nearly all their own feathers while cooped up in a cage in a small windowless closet for more than a year!
The dogs were given straw after being forced to sleep on cold concrete for such a long time. The primates have been overjoyed to receive treats, fresh hay, their first-ever bedding, and comfort. They have been housed in barren conditions for so long that a simple blanket makes a huge difference to them. The chimpanzees snuggled and played with blankets, clothes, and shoes obtained by PETA from Goodwill. The OSU chimpanzees put on the socks, Sarah played with a crayon, and Darrell grabbed a toothbrush and worked on his teeth.
Fresh produce—berries, bananas, apples, romaine lettuce—and fresh bamboo was cut for the Patagonian hares and other animals. The primates went crazy for the nuts and seeds scattered in the fresh hay, immediately asking for more after eating up the delicious foods they hadn’t tasted in a long, long time.
PHOTOS atwww.PETA.org. Photo captions:
Volunteers were horrified to find animals living in extreme filth with large cockroach colonies. There was a "river of chimpanzee feces" seeping into the ground and making the water there unsafe.
Happy chimpanzees enjoy fresh produce and mental stimulation, two things denied them for years.
Baboons Hank and Maggie have gone from their feces-encrusted, roach-filled cages to a true sanctuary.
From: "Don Barnes" firstname.lastname@example.org
A comment from San Antonio: