Please levy the MAXIMUM FINE against Washington State University for their blatant disregard of the Animal Welfare Act when their negligence killed bears and sheep. Their negligence in allowing staff to fatally overdose bighorn sheep and also in allowing bears to become seriously debilitated should NOT be tolerated and MUST be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
WSU receives another complaint about
its grizzly bear program
By Eric Barker, Lewiston Tribune, June 7, 2016
An animal rights group filed another complaint against Washington State University and its grizzly bear program Monday, this time questioning the quality of monitoring and veterinary care the bears receive and the school's use of euthanasia.
In a letter to Robert Gibbons, director of the western region of the U.S. Animal Plant Health Inspection Service at Fort Collins, Colo., Stop Animal Exploitation Now cited university records regarding the 2014 deaths of an 11-year-old female bear named Mica and 4-year-old male name Sam.
According to the records, also obtained by the Lewiston Tribune, Mica died of a perforated uterus and Sam died during hibernation - likely from gastric ulcers and a mass on one of its kidneys.
"If the animals were being monitored adequately and observed sufficiently, those are the kinds of things that should be observed and treated," said Michael Budkie, executive director of the group that specializes in animal research centers.
Budkie filed the group's first complaint against WSU on Thursday after it obtained U.S. Department of Agriculture report saying three bighorn sheep were given the drug dexamethasone at 50 times the approved dosage for three consecutive days earlier this year. The report also detailed a 2010 incident in which two grizzly bears had to be euthanized after nearly starving to death when they failed to go into hibernation.
In the group's newest filing, Budkie is asking the agency to determine if the use of euthanasia, both during research and to control the population of grizzlies at the Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center, follows approved protocol.
"If their protocol and standard operating procedures don't lay that out and that hasn't been approved by the administration of the university it would constitute another violation of the Animal Welfare Act," he said.
In the findings of an internal investigation conducted late last year, the university said the bear center complies with its own and federal rules regarding euthanasia.
"The center follows a strict protocol for euthanasia that has been reviewed and approved by WSU's Institutional Animal Care And Uses Committee (IACUC), which reports to the National Institute of Health's (NIH) Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare. The protocol is thus compliant with federal guidelines for euthanasia," according to the investigation.
But the report offered little detail about how and when the practice is used. According to documents obtained by the Tribune, 10 bears have been euthanized there since 2009. Three of those were part of research projects, two were put down after they failed to enter hibernation in 2010 and were near death when discovered, one was euthanized for chronic hip lameness and a pair of cubs were killed both in 2011 and again last year to control the population.
The bear center acquires some bears from the wild, but it also breeds its bears to supplement the population. In some cases the cubs are then hand-raised by staff and students at the center so they can be trained to submit to routine procedures, such as blood drawing, to make research easier.
Breeding sometimes produces too many cubs for the small facility with a maximum capacity of about dozen adult bears. The death of Mica in 2014 reduced the center's population of trained bears to just three. Two females were allowed to breed later that year. Bear center officials hoped four female cubs would be born the following spring because, when grown, they are much smaller than males and thus easier and safer to work with.
However, the sows produced two female cubs and four males. Officials eventually decided to euthanize two of the males and keep the rest.
The practice of killing cubs to control the populations was something the school tried to keep private. In 2011, after a batch of six cubs were born to two sows, then-bear center Director Charlie Robbins asked Gwen Anderson, assistant director of the Office of Campus Veterinarian, to be careful about posting pictures of the cubs on Facebook.
"Please be a little quiet in that currently I am planning to keep 4, which means I have to kill 2 in the next few weeks," he wrote.
In response, Anderson wrote that she understood putting cubs down was difficult for Robbins and his staff and also asked him to share the warning against posting to social media with others who work with the cubs.
"The photos that (name redacted) posted are great ... they show real caring for the bears which I think is a good thing but if someone were to figure out six were born ... but then only 4 appear on display this spring ... questions might be raised & difficult questions might have to be answered," she wrote.
Both Robbins and Steve Russell, director of the Office of Campus Veterinarian, had their director duties reassigned during and following the investigation.
In a statement released Monday by the university, Kim Kidwell, acting dean of the College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Resource Sciences, said animal welfare concerns are a top priority and cited the school's own investigation into the bear center last year.
"The USDA report plainly states that WSU had addressed these concerns before it conducted an inspection in April. WSU leadership is monitoring the care and well-being of the bears on a daily basis: the bears are doing very well, are receiving excellent care and continue to serve the greater conservation effort by participating in critical research to save grizzlies in the wild."
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