Tuesday, October 02, 2007

One of the Largest Animal Research Facilities in the Country Will Open in Truckee Meadows near Reno, Nevada

An unfortunate act in a very beautiful part of the country. Sadly, this facility will be large.

As stated below, “The Reno Planning Commission approved Charles River Laboratories' new 450,000-square-foot [facility].


Animal testing lab's move to Reno spurs outcry over planning



Heather Singer, left, Kathy Parker and Florence Abel on Monday protest the nearly completed Charles River Laboratory on Maestro Drive at Longley Lane.

One of the largest animal research facilities in the country will open this fall in the heart of the Truckee Meadows, and the only planning approval required -- a special use permit -- did not go to the Reno City Council.

The Reno Planning Commission approved Charles River Laboratories' new 450,000-square-foot, preclinical research center at 6995 Longley Lane adjacent to residential property in February 2006.

Since no one filed an appeal, that stood as the final decision. The same thing occurred when a new minor league baseball stadium was approved in downtown Reno in August.
Councilwoman Jessica Sferrazza, who fought for a new regional animal control center, said projects of a certain size should trigger a City Council hearing. Sferrazza lives within a few miles of the research lab but didn't learn of it until last week.

"We're the elected body. I respect the planning commission for what they do," Sferrazza said. "But it should come up to the council for review."
Mayor Bob Cashell agreed.

"There are special occasions," he said. "It's something we should look at."
Councilwoman Sharon Zadra said there was more discussion about parking than animal testing when two neighborhood groups reviewed the project in January 2006. No one seemed to be alarmed about the project, which lies within her ward, she said, noting that the council can't favor some legal businesses over others.

"You can't make judgment calls," she said.

Reno lab
The Reno facility will be among the five largest labs in the country, said Greg Beattie, the center's executive director for operations. Charles River is a public company with headquarters in Wilmington, Mass.

The company is relocating from Dunn Circle in Sparks to Reno and will be phasing in employees to the new facility over the next six months.

Sparks city officials, health officials, company officials and animal rights advocates say the plant has operated in the Sparks industrial area without incident for 15 years. Beattie said the 6995 Longley Lane site was chosen because it is closer to where its employees live.

Beattie said the company will greatly reduce research involving macaque monkeys at the Reno facility. In Sparks, he said the monkeys made up the "vast majority" of its research.
He said that means most of the research in Reno will involve rodents and a small percentage of dogs and monkeys. He said the federal government requires nonrodent testing before new drugs can be released on the market.

Activists picket

Animal rights protesters have been at the Reno site in recent months.
"I'm totally against it because of the animal testing they do," said Tania Tavcar, who lives nearby. "Every day I drive by that place, I feel like I'm driving by a pet cemetery. I may move. But I'm going to stay here and fight for a while."

"I don't think people realize what's happening in the middle of town," said Florence Abel, 78, a resident of the Quail Manor Court senior complex, northwest of the building. "I don't think what they are doing is illegal, but it's immoral."

Beattie said research will continue to involve testing new drugs on animals to find any side effects. A new drug for HIV, for instance, would be tested to see whether it causes tumors or other side effects.

Initial testing to see whether the drug is effective against the HIV virus would be done elsewhere, Beattie said.

For the company to handle deadly substances, he said, the building would have to be rebuilt to higher standards. At other locations, Charles River has done preclinical testing for drugs to counter anthrax, nerve gas and the sometimes fatal Dengue virus, according to the Centers for

Disease Control and Prevention.

The new Reno laboratory building is rated as a Biosafety Level 2 facility, the same rating given to hospitals.

Charles River purchased the former State Farm building on Longley Lane and has spent $107 million renovating it, city and county records show. Millions more have been spent on lab equipment.

Animal research will be done on the 50,000-square-foot second floor and a large chemical laboratory will be on the first floor, Beattie said.

Beattie said the Sparks center employs 400 people who will be transferred to Reno. And the Reno lab will to grow to 900 employees over the next several years. Half of the jobs require a college degree, he said.

'No environmental hazards'
The plant, he said, will not create any environmental hazards, and the building did not flood in either the 1997 or 2005 floods. Inside the plant, a pretreatment tank will dissolve acids from the laboratories before the waste enters the sewer system. A station is set up for city officials to monitor that, he said.

Beattie said the only thing coming out of the large vents on the rooftop will be air. He said the plant will have no incinerator, and carcasses are hauled away to approved sites, which he did not want to specify.

Records show the labs are built with one-hour fire safety walls and fire officials have lists of the chemicals used and amounts that will be on site.

Coral Amende, a founder for Reno Outreach for Animal Rights, contends the government doesn't have enough inspectors to oversee the laboratory, contending the U.S. Department of Agriculture has only 101 inspectors for 13,000 laboratories.

The facility is inspected by the USDA, the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Beattie said.

Beattie said inspectors from these agencies have been through the facility dozens of times and have reported only a few "housekeeping" items. He said the last inspection was about a month ago. The company prides itself on maintaining higher standards than the federal government requires, he said.

He also said the lab is monitored by an institutional animal care and use committee. It includes a local resident, but he declined to name that person.
John Hester, Reno community development director, said the city does not regulate the care of animals in the facility. That's up to the federal government.

He said it's up to the council to change the city's code to require special use permits for larger projects.

The council in 1995 gave the planning commission the final say on special use permits unless there's an appeal. The practice is the same in Sparks and has been since 2000.
Questions were raised about animal testing at a joint meeting of the southwest and south ward neighborhood advisory board on Jan. 5, 2006. Notices were sent to residents within 750 feet, and the company also sent a letter to the Quail Manor Court, a senior citizen housing project next door.

All of that, city officials said, goes beyond legal requirements.

Bob Fulkerson, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada executive director, said major projects that affect citizens should go before the city council.

The staff report reviewed by planning commissioners included a single mention of testing on animals on its fourth page.

Fulkerson said the city should consider requiring a summary statement of a project in common language "so people know what the heck is going on."

Pending cases

A case against Charles River Laboratories is pending before the New Mexico Supreme Court. The case was dismissed by a lower court that said its chimp facility was exempted from the state's animal cruelty law. The facility was included in an exception for the practice of veterinary medicine.

The criminal charges related to two chimpanzees that died overnight when only security guards were on duty. One was injured by other chimps and bled to death and the other didn't regain consciousness after being anesthetized for an exam.

Amende said researchers can find other ways to find cures without doing research on animals.

"Out of every 100 drugs tested, we get just one that is safe and effective," she said.

Beattie said testing on animals is required by the federal government before new drugs are allowed to be put on the market. "There's not a single medical advance for humans or animals that has been done without this kind of research."

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