University of Washington’s Primate Center Seems to Have a New Target: Its Staff

For Immediate Release:
June 12, 2024

Sydney Rader 202-483-7382

Mesa, Ariz.

PETA has uncovered documents revealing that the University of Washington’s Washington National Primate Research Center in Seattle and its breeding facility in Mesa have racked up 255 employee safety incidents resulting in staff illnesses or injuries—many requiring medical treatment, antiviral treatment, or hospitalization—between 2021 and 2023.   

Seventy-five of the incidents may have also violated the federal Animal Welfare Act but were apparently never reported to authorities as required. PETA filed a complaint today with the U.S. Department of Agriculture asking the agency to issue citations, as appropriate, and consider recommending civil and/or criminal penalties through the U.S. Department of Justice.  

PETA reviewed hundreds of pages of reports to the university’s safety committee that documented bites and scratches from stressed monkeys as well as injuries from being accidentally poked with needles, being splashed in the eyes with fluids from monkeys, or using contaminated equipment—all of which increased the risk of transmittable diseases. The group also found equipment failures and stressed staff who rushed through procedures, which further contributed to an unsafe environment. 

While the primate center is just one of 32 university departments that make up the safety committee, it was responsible for a whopping 61% of reported incidents in 2021, 49% of them in 2022, and 44% in 2023. 

At least 21 primate center staffers were sent to Seattle hospital emergency rooms and dozens required antiviral treatment for possible exposure to the deadly herpes B virus—a disease carried by monkeys that’s fatal to 80% of humans who contract it. The university admitted that “virtually everyone … gets ill at some point in their first six months” from staph or shigella infections or “being around aerosolized fecal matter.” 

Credit: PETA

“Poorly trained, overworked staffers are routinely exposed to deadly pathogens that are rampant in the monkey colonies or injured on the job,” says PETA primate scientist Dr. Lisa Jones-Engel. “The University of Washington’s negligence is dangerous to both staffers and monkeys and warrants a federal investigation.” 

At the university’s primate center sites in Seattle and Mesa, multiple workers were bitten by monkeys and an employee was injured while trying to restrain a large monkey who jumped off a table—all evidence of poor training and inadequate staffing. In one incident, a crowbar fell onto a veterinarian’s head during a procedure, causing a gash that required stitches. 

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on”—points out that Every Animal Is Someone and offers free Empathy Kits for people who need a lesson in kindness. For more information, please visit or follow the group on X, Facebook, or Instagram

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