City: Training not permitted

Published 10:23 pm Friday, December 4, 2015

City officials have warned a Suffolk property owner that they will take measures to ensure compliance with the zoning ordinance if the city receives further complaints about military training using live animals at the site.

A letter to John Janota from Zoning Administrator Patricia Southard says the property at 4800 Gates Run Road does not have the proper permits to conduct so-called “live tissue training.”

“This letter is to advise you that the use of the above referenced property for combat trauma and live tissue training is not permitted,” Southard wrote. “Should this office receive additional complaints or concerns regarding the improper use of the property, measures will be taken to secure legal access to the site and, if violations are found, all available measures will be taken to ensure compliance with the zoning ordinance.”

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The letter is dated Oct. 22, the day after employees and supporters of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals complained about the training during a City Council meeting.

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.

According to PETA, its representatives met zoning, police and animal control officials at the property on Sept. 28, a 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 said in October that no probable cause to obtain a search warrant was available at the time.

According to Southard’s letter, investigations were conducted in 2009 and 2013 in response to similar concerns. Janota told her in 2009 that Janota’s company, Assessment and Training Solutions, did conduct military training on some properties but that none was in Suffolk, according to the letter.

Klink said this week that Southard’s letter was advisory and not an official notice of violation, as no violations have been witnessed by city inspectors.

Violations of the zoning ordinance are heard in General District Court as a civil offense, punishable by fines, Klink added.

Klink also said staff continue to investigate the proper procedures for obtaining a search warrant to gain access to the property should further complaints be received.