Dallas Tech Firm Tells PETA to Mind its Own Monkey Business

Data Drive Thru says its ad, starring 6-year-old chimp Cody, is cruelty-free, which probably won't satisfy PETA. Didn't the first two times...

Yesterday, we mentioned how the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals was opposed to an ad for Dallas-based Data Drive Thru's new networking device called The Tornado. Specifically, they're trying to get Data Drive Thru to stop from debuting the ad next week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, claiming that one of the chimpanzees in the ad, 6-year-old Cody, is a former victim of abuse at the hands of his owner, Sid Yost, who was forced to turn over the chimp last month in a civil lawsuit settlement dealing with horrific allegations of abuse.

We were waiting on a response from Data Drive Thru's CEO, Paul Andrus, with whom we left a message yesterday afternoon. Today, we got considerably more than that: a statement from Andrus concerning PETA's press release of yesterday, as well as two letters Andrus sent to PETA's special projects coordinator Bob Chorush -- one dated December 11, the other from December 16. All three missives, which explain how the ad was shot and insist the animals' treatment was "very inconsistent with the allegations [PETA] provided," were sent to Unfair Park from Clint Hughes, Data Drive Thru's VP of marketing. In the December 16 missive, Andrus especially takes issue with PETA's allegations that he would, in any way, endorse instances of abuse of any kind:

"I would hope that the fact that my wife and I are licensed foster parents with Child Protective Services in Dallas; have recently adopted 4 children who come from a horrific background of abuse; and the fact that I am the founder of Lone Pine Foundation, a charity dedicated to helping abused and neglected children says volumes as to my 'seriousness' about this issue," he writes. I believe the, "So there" is implied.

All the letters from Andrus and Data Drive Thru are after the jump, in chronological order. --Robert Wilonsky

December 11, 2006 Mr. Bob Chorush Special Projects Coordinator PETA 501 Front Street Norfolk, VA 23510

Via Facsimile 757-***-****

Re: Response to your letter dated December 8, 2006

Dear Mr. Chorush,

I am in receipt of your multiple fax copies of the letter referenced above regarding the use of Cody, the chimpanzee, in our advertising. I also understand that you have contacted our VP Marketing, Clint Hughes this morning. As it is only now Monday morning, I hope you appreciate the fact that we have responded to your Friday afternoon letter timely and take this matter very seriously. It has been referred to my office and I must insist that you direct all further correspondence and telephone calls to me directly at 214-***-****.

We are shocked by the information that you have provided in the letter. I have not yet seen the referenced attachments but will read them when I receive them. It has also been brought to my attention that Cody was not removed On December 7th to a sanctuary as you have stated in your letter. As of the date of your letter, he was still with Mr. Kelly.

First, please let me state the facts surrounding the taping of a short segment using Cody:

I was personally present during the taping of the segment where Cody simply plugs a USB cable into the USB ports of two computers and then gives my daughter a hug after she completes the file transfer between the two computers.

We have never heard of, spoken to or met Sid Yost referenced in your letter.

We were unaware of any problems or issues surrounding Cody, his owner or any other matters referenced in your letter.

The two trainers who handled Cody on the one day shoot were Rick Kelly and a young man by the name of Trevor.

At no time, did I, my staff or any member of the production crew witness any cruel or inappropriate behavior by either trainer. In fact, Cody was treated like a king from the moment he arrived until he left. We also did not witness any reaction by Cody to either trainer that would suggest any appropriate or cruel training methods were used with Cody prior to his arrival on the set.

Mr. Hughes accompanied Cody, Rick and Trevor to the airport and reported back to me that Rick literally cried when Cody was placed in a live animal cargo container.

As an owner of an operating quarter horse ranch and a father of four recently adopted children who come from an abused background, I will not tolerate abuse at any level — regardless of the species either in my personal life or with companies that I am associated with or manage.

While I find the information in your letter disturbing, our experience with Cody, Rick and Trevor was very inconsistent with the allegations you have provided. As an owner and lover of horses, dogs and cats, I am also more sensitive and observant than most to animal behavior and particularly to behavior that is the result of rough, inappropriate or cruel handling. There absolutely was no beating of a chimpanzee that can be associated with The Tornado� product as you have referenced in your letter. It simply did not happen. If you have some evidence or information about the training, rehearsals or shooting of this advertising segment that would substantiate your claim please forward it to me immediately. This would, of course, upset me greatly.

Should you require any further information regarding the segment using Cody please do not hesitate to contact my office directly.

Sincerely,

Paul L. Andrus President/CEO

Cc: Clint Hughes Mark Alfieri Mark Winnubst

From: Paul L. Andrus [mailto:andrus@datadrivethru.com] Sent: Saturday, December 16, 2006 8:22 PM To: 'BobC@peta.org' Cc: 'chughes@datadrivethru.com' Subject: RE: From Peta

Bob,

I received your e-mail below from Clint Hughes. Thank you for the explanation on Rick Kelly and Syd Yost. Per your last voice message to me before I left for China, you made an assumption that I have seen all the materials that you sent to my Dallas office. I have not been in Dallas since receiving your initial letter by fax and have not had an opportunity to review or investigate any of this matter other than respond to you directly. Unfortunately I will not be returning to the US until Dec 24th. I plan on looking at the materials the week between Christmas and New Years. Again, we take the subject very seriously. Your comment below, however, is somewhat offensive to me — "I trust that you are serious about your commitment to avoid supporting abuse at any level..." I would hope that the fact that my wife and I are licensed foster parents with Child Protective Services in Dallas; have recently adopted 4 children who come from a horrific background of abuse; and the fact that I am the founder of Lone Pine Foundation, a charity dedicated to helping abused and neglected children says volumes as to my "seriousness" about this issue. Members of my management team are also involved in similar non-profit organizations including some that have animal protection causes. Please take a moment to consider our position and the facts regarding our company and its leadership before you make too many assumptions. I ask you this —

The cute eight year-old in the segment with Cody was seriously abused before entering foster care. Is it PETA's position that we should remove the segment she appears in for the same reasons you give regarding Cody's participation? (We do not yet recognize as we have not been provide evidence that Cody's alleged abuse is relative to training on our product.) Or are we more sensitive to great apes than human children?

Another perspective:

If I hire a builder/contractor, who was referred to me by a local builders association (Syd aka Rick was referred to us by the California Film Commission), to build a custom home and then find out later that the contractor has a criminal background and a history of abusing his workers but none of that history was evident in the building of our home, is it PETA's position that I should not only move out of the house but tear it down so it no longer is a reminder of the contractor's abuse of his employees?

Data Drive Thru is our home which we have built from scratch using contractors along the way. The upcoming TV commercial is not about Cody, it's about The Tornado product — just as a home is not about the contractor — even though it may contain some signature of his work — something unique to only him. We are a small company and have made a significant investment in the television campaign. Cody's segment presents a very small but important aspect. The information about Cody is extremely disturbing as I've mentioned and we will look at the materials you've sent and consider your request as quickly as possible. However, what you are asking me to do based on a letter sent to me from your organization is not reasonable without further investigation by us. Such a decision comes with serious financial impact which is secondary to the issue of abuse but none-the-less a necessary consideration as I have a fiduciary duty to the company and its shareholders.

I will get back to you after I have returned to the States, reviewed the materials you sent, and meet with my management team and Board of Directors. Please also be advised that I will not debate the issue with you via e-mail. I simply am advising you that I am in southern China on business and what my ability is to investigate and properly respond to your request.

Best regards,

Paul Paul L. Andrus President/CEO Data Drive Thru, Inc. 100 Crescent Court, Ste. 700 Dallas, TX 75201

And, finally, this is the statement sent from Data Drive Thru to Unfair Park this morning:

Data Drive Thru has reviewed the materials presented by PETA regarding the alleged abuses of the chimpanzee named Cody. The email dated January 2, 2007, sent by PETA to the media implies that the alleged abuses have some relation to the filming last November of a short segment in our Company's upcoming TV infomercial which shows Cody plugging our Tornado device into the USB ports of two computers. The information presented to us by PETA in no way supports their inference in the e-mail that there was any mistreatment of Cody in his training for this segment. We know for a fact that he was treated better than the human talent on the set of the one day shoot and there was no evidence whatsoever of any conflict between Cody and his handlers.

The information provided by PETA reports alleged abuses that date back to 2002 and 2003. We have not been able to confirm that the owner of Cody has been convicted of any crimes surrounding the handling and training of Cody.

Data Drive Thru and its management team do not tolerate abuse of any animal regardless of its species. While the reports provided by PETA are disturbing, we had no knowledge of these allegations when we were referred to the chimp's owner/trainer by the California Film Commission. We regret that PETA has taken the tactic of attempting to tie past allegations of abuse by an individual to our product commercial.

Sincerely,

Paul L. Andrus President/CEO Data Drive Thru, Inc. 100 Crescent Court, Ste. 700 Dallas, TX 75201


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