Council responds to PETA

Published 9:05 pm Thursday, October 22, 2015

City Council members on Wednesday asked the city manager to look into allegations of zoning violations at a Suffolk property PETA staff and supporters say has been used for military training involving live animals.

Eight people spoke against the training at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. They say the property owned by John Janota, located at 4800 Gates Run Road, near the North Carolina line, is being used by Janota’s company, Assessment and Training Solutions Consulting Corporation, for so-called “live tissue trauma” training.

“Suffolk zoning inspectors have confirmed that this property, owned by ATSCC president John Janota, is not zoned for this kind of activity, making this an apparent illegal land use,” said Shalin Gala, a laboratory methods specialist for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

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Such training involves anesthetizing animals — usually pigs or goats — and then intentionally inflicting the type of wounds physicians and paramedics are likely to see in combat situations, according to the Journal of Military and Veterans’ Health. Trainees then practice treating the injuries to simulate the treatment of injuries to humans in a combat situation. Following the training, the animals are euthanized.

PETA says the company has used more than 10,000 live animals in these training exercises, many at the Suffolk location.

“This has gone on for far too long, and we urge the council to please intervene to ensure that the law is enforced and these cruel trainings are prohibited,” Gala said during Wednesday’s meeting. He added that human simulators are available for this type of training.

According to PETA, its representatives met zoning, police and animal control officials at the property on Sept. 28, the day training allegedly was to take place at the site.

Numerous vehicles and a livestock trailer entered the premises, and “multiple gunshots” were heard coming from the property, according to PETA.

City spokeswoman Diana Klink, in an emailed response to questions, said police saw four vehicles enter the property and heard five gunshots.

“There was no probable cause to obtain a search warrant and no law violations,” she wrote. “As no access was available, Zoning could not corroborate PETA’s suspicion nor did they witness any violations to the zoning ordinance. No further action is being taken at this time.”

After a PETA tip in 2013, a zoning inspector met with Janota’s neighbor, who described “pits full of dead animals” on the property, according to PETA.

“In 2009, city officials responded to a PETA complaint by tipping Janota off to a planned inspection, which according to a whistleblower, apparently allowed ATSCC to remove evidence and conceal the property’s use for medical training,” according to PETA.

Near the end of Wednesday’s meeting, City Council members asked for a report to be brought at a later time.

“At this time, the investigation is ongoing,” City Manager Patrick Roberts said. “It is not complete.”

Councilman Mike Duman added there were two distinct issues: the ethics of live tissue trauma training and the alleged zoning violations.

The trauma training “is open to opinion and open to personal views, however the zoning issue is not,” Duman said.

A woman who answered the phone Thursday at ATSCC’s Virginia Beach office identified herself as the cleaning lady, said nobody was there who could answer questions about the allegations and then hung up. An email seeking comment was unreturned.