Residents call for Emory research center shutdown

Some Lawrenceville residents are calling for the shutdown of Emory University's Yerkes National Primate Research Center Field Station, which announced last week that a research monkey was missing.

Eighteen residents filed an official nuisance complaint with the Lawrenceville Planning, Zoning, and Inspections Department. The residents cite health and safety risks and previous violations of federal animal welfare standards at the center as a further reason for the complaint.

The complaint was rejected by the City of Lawrenceville, said Randy Muller, one of the residents who helped file the complaint. Miller said he was contacted Wednesday afternoon and told that the center was not under the city's jurisdiction.

Muller, who lives across the street from the center, said he won't stop there.

"Living across the street, I’m not feeling really warm and fuzzy about it right now," he said. "I intend to bring the complaint to the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners. Other than a letter from Yerkes, I haven’t seen anyone come by and express any concern or give me any updates."

Yerkes Spokeswoman Lisa Newbern said the center is trying to obtain a copy of the residents' nuisance complaint. She said the center remains focused on locating the animal.

Newbern said personnel from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources met with Yerkes staff Wednesday to discuss steps that the staff have taken to find the monkey. The USDA issued a brief report summing up that the search was still inconclusive.

The center announced after the monkey escaped that it was not part of any research in which it was infected with any disease.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals assisted the residents with the filing process, said Justin Goodman, associate director of lab investigations at PETA.

Last week, PETA filed its own federal complaint urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate the monkey's escape.

"For years we’ve been hearing from people in the area," Goodman said. "Now we’re seeing the facilities’ incompetence is putting people at risk. The center waited a week before they said anything. They said they identified on June 15 that she had escaped. She could have been at large for weeks before that happened."