Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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"Secretive" Monkey Breeding Facility Lawsuit Moves Forward

LABELLE, FL - Some Hendry County residents can breathe a sigh of relief as a lawsuit filed on their behalf regarding the building of a secretive monkey breeding facility now moves forward.

Christopher Berry 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 in 3,200 monkeys from overseas to breed and sell for use in lab experiments. One concern is they could bring several diseases with them, like Ebola and tuberculosis.

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."

He 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 press 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."

Photos/graphics; links; added and updated by the Observer | Photo: PETA

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