Monkey ban initiative targeted at Covance

July 8, 2008

By hammersmith

[Source: Edythe Jensen, The Arizona Republic, Chandler edition] – Five Chandler women want to keep monkeys out of the city, but they’ll need 15,018 signatures on initiative petitions by July 3 to put the issue before voters.

Their motive appears to be part of a continuing effort by animal rights activists to stop drug development giant Covance Inc. from opening in Chandler. The company uses animals, including primates, as test subjects.

The women are identified in city records as Elizabeth Sharpe, Janice McClellan, Cathy Jo Ernst, Tracey Sabiers and Laura Einstandig. The initiative would add “non-human primates” to a municipal law that prohibits keeping poisonous snakes and reptiles.

Camilla Strongin, spokeswoman for Covance, said the five are part of groups that have been trying for more than two years to stop the drug development firm from building a large research facility on 50 acres near the Chandler Municipal Airport. Construction has been ongoing for months.

City Clerk Marla Paddock said initiative drives are rare in Chandler and she remembers only two in the past 20 years. One was the successful drive to stop expansion of the Chandler Municipal Airport in 1989. The other was not successful and Paddock said she couldn’t remember details.

Three of the five organizers did not return phone messages and two – McClellan and Ernst – declined comment.

A Web site promoting the initiative as The Healthy Chandler Act says, “This campaign is on hold status for now.”

The site provides few details and does not mention Covance, but it ties the initiative to health risks posed by primates.

More than a decade ago, Apache Junction and Queen Creek banned the keeping of primates for pets or breeding after one woman who had lived in both cities at different times brought her collection of more than 20 monkeys to her homes. Many escaped and terrorized neighbors before the cities imposed primate bans. However, both municipalities give exemptions for medical research.