The complaint filed with federal authorities against USF for mishandling research primates has led to a criminal investigation by University Police (UP).
Assistant Chief Christopher Daniel said the agency was made aware of the incident last week and is now conducting a review to see if the mishandling of research primates, which led to the death of one primate, is punishable under Florida statutes for cruelty to animals.
Florida Statute 828.12 states any individual who “unnecessarily overloads, overdrives, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance or shelter, or unnecessarily mutilates, or kills any animal” is guilty of animal cruelty. The maximum punishment for the first-degree misdemeanor is a year in jail, a $5,000 fine or both.
“We are not saying a crime has occurred,” Daniel said. “All we are doing is looking at the circumstances to see how it fits, in context to the statute, and if we find that something does fit, then we will investigate it a little further.”
In September, animal rights group Stop Animal Exploitation Now filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, asking federal authorities to launch a formal investigation into a research project conducted by USF researchers last year titled “Obesity, Diabetes, Aging and Their Complications.”
According to the group and self-reported incident reports from university officials, researchers restricted water from 27 research primates overnight in the months of April and December 2013.
Daniel said UP received a phone call from Clearwater resident Victoria Halley last week, who asked UP to look into the criminal aspect of the incidents.
The review is currently ongoing and Daniel said UP is still trying to locate anyone connected to the incident who might still be in the area in order to conduct interviews.
UP is also trying to get all the government forms related to the incidents.