LABELLE, Fla. — A Circuit Court judge ruled Friday that Hendry County didn’t violate Florida’s Sunshine Law when it approved controversial monkey breeding facilities, sparking intense reaction.
The county has maintained that it did nothing wrong when it approved two monkey farms for land zoned for agricultural use, but those who live nearby have said they failed to receive proper notice that it was proposed for their neighborhood.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund, representing the three plaintiffs who brought action against the county, expressed disappointment and announced its intention to seek an appeal.
“The court found that the county’s approval of the primate breeding facilities was not illegal because the county had historically approved similar facilities in the early 2000s,” the defense fund said in a statement. “However, the approval process for those earlier facilities also violated Florida’s Sunshine Law, which requires state and local government bodies to hold public hearings and provide public notice for all steps in a policy-making process – like deciding to allow breeding dangerous and exotic primates as ‘animal husbandry’ in agriculture zoning despite that term’s general limitation to raising domestic animals such as cows and sheep.”
Monkeys can be bred at the farms just as other farms breed cattle, the county argued.
“We’re both relieved and satisfied,” Hendry County administrator Charles Chapman said after the ruling. “These two projects we’ll be undertaking with breeding animals, falling under animal husbandry, is a by-right provision within the agricultural land use.”
Animal rights activist Dr. Madeleine Doran insists the county altered its description of animal husbandry after the suit was filed.
“I’m outraged. I cannot believe that the judge ruled against their violation,” Doran said.
Doran echoed the defense fund, looking ahead to an appeal. That would force the county to continue to spend money on the legal action. County officials couldn’t say how much they’d spent on the case to this point.