University researchers in Florida who work with animals are now lobbying the state legislature for the right to shelter personal information from animal activists intent on intimidating them.
A bill currently moving through the Florida House of Representatives would exempt the personal contact information of animal researchers at state-funded research facilities from being part of the public record.
Officials with the University of Florida, along with several other state universities — including the University of Central Florida, Florida International University and the University of South Florida — are supporting the bill as a necessary protection for researchers from threats and harassment dished out by animal activists.
If approved, the bill would exempt the personal identification of researchers in animal records on treatment and care, research protocols and approvals, purchase or billing records, animal care and use committee records and facility and lab records.
In Gainesville, Fla., where the main campus of the university is located, a radical animal rights group has vowed to continue to harass UF scientists.
The activists, who are nominally aligned with the innocuous Eleventh Hour for Animals, a nonprofit promoting the adoption of rescue dogs and cats, proclaim that they intend to expose “the taxpayer-funded animal torture industry inside the University of Florida.”
After a three-year lawsuit, Eleventh Hour for Animals, which is connected to the activist organization Negotiation is Over (which maintains the virulent website www.negotiationisover.net), obtained the university’s public veterinary records in April 2013, according to a report published by The Independent Florida Alligator news service, and the activists posted personal phone numbers, addresses and photos of UF animal researchers.
“The university wants to be very open and honest about its research,” Janine Sikes, a UF spokeswoman, told IFA. “[But] it wants to stop these personal attacks against our researchers.”
Sikes said the animal activists have made harassing phone calls, targeted researchers’ children and family members and even made death threats. As a result, Eleventh Hour for Animals is under surveillance from local law enforcement, as well as the FBI.
Judge them by their words
Of course, Camille A. Marino, the founder of Negotiation Is Over and now director of Eleventh Hour for Animals, claimed that the group never threatened anyone or committed any violent acts against the researchers at UF.