CARSON CITY, Nev. - A monkey at a Reno animal research lab was killed last year when workers failed to remove it before its cage was sent through a commercial cage washer, an animal rights group and the lab confirmed Tuesday.
Amy Cianciaruso, a spokeswoman for Charles River Laboratories, called the primate's death April 6 an "unfortunate incident" caused by human error and said steps have been taken to prevent a recurrence.
An animal rights group claimed the long-tailed macaque was "literally boiled alive."
"Commercial cage washers are designed to sterilize the enclosures," said Michael Budkie, executive director of Ohio-based Stop Animal Exploitation Now. "This incident occurred even though the cage was supposedly checked three times before being put into the washing system."
Cianciaruso said the company notified the U.S. Department of Agriculture about the death and has since paid a fine. She did not know the amount.
According to the USDA incident report, investigators said that during two of the three times the cage was checked before washing, personnel "signed off" that no animals were in the cage.
"The mishandling of the animal ... resulted in its death," the report said. "The staff did not thoroughly look for animals before having the cages washed. Looking for, and removing any animals, is important for the health and safety of all animals."
Charles River, which is based in Wilmington, Mass., has two research labs in the Reno-Sparks area. In 2008, 32 longtail macaques were killed at the Sparks lab when the quarantined room they were in overheated. The company blamed a series of human errors in the operation of the climate control for those deaths and settled the case by paying a $10,000 fine.
In 2006, the fingers of two monkeys were amputated after they were caught in cage wiring and a dolly while being moved at the Sparks lab. The tip of the tail of a third monkey was cut.
Regarding the latest incident, Cianciaruso said five additional preventive measures have been implemented companywide to improve visual and audible communications during cage cleaning. Additionally, she said dirty cage staging areas have been equipped with closed-circuit cameras.
Charles River Laboratories has done animal research to test and develop drugs since 1947. It has animal research labs in 16 states and 14 foreign countries, according to its Web site.