Contact Dr. Robert Gibbens Director
Western Region, USDA
Please levy a maximum fine against the University of Missouri, Columbia, for their blatant disregard of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) when they failed to provide adequate enclosures - leading to the deaths of a puppy and a pig. This must NOT be tolerated and MUST be punished to the fullest extent of the law. The time is NOW to send a clear message with stiff penalties to these negligent facilities that these behaviors will NOT be tolerated!
Animal rights group calls for fines
after inspection of University of Missouri animal labs
By Rudi Keller, ColumbiaTribune.com, June 29, 2016
Findings from a Department of Agriculture inspection of University of Missouri animal research facilities should result in substantial fines, the leader of an animal rights group said Tuesday.
Michael Budkie, founder of Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!, said incidents that caused the death of a dachshund puppy and a boar, both the result of animals escaping from their pen into adjoining areas, deserve strong punishment. Budkie filed a complaint that triggered the June 6 inspection after reviewing reports on the animal deaths filed by MU with the National Institutes of Health.
In a news release, Budkie called for a fine of $10,000 for each violation of research animal safety regulations.
“Because they broke the law, animals died, and there should be a significant penalty attached to that,” Budkie said. “Otherwise it would mean they negligently killed animals and got off scot-free.”
The call for fines is the latest pressure on MU because of its animal research program. In May, a California-based group called Animal Rescue, Media & Education sued over the university’s demand that it pay $82,222.33 to complete an open records request for information about 179 dogs and cats used in research. MU has almost 3,000 research animals, including about 300 dogs and 550 pigs.
The health and safety of those animals is a priority for the university, spokesman Christian Basi wrote in an email.
“When these incidents happened, we immediately took corrective action and self-reported both events to the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, which is the federal office overseeing animal laboratory care,” he wrote. “They responded and agreed with our assessment along with the corrective actions that we had taken.”
The inspection report confirmed that on June 3, 2015, three adult dachshunds were housed in one animal run adjacent to a run enclosing a litter of recently weaned puppies. One of the adult dogs came through a transfer door and killed a puppy. The report found that the lab had fixed the problem by replacing door latches with pull rings that keep the door in place.
On March 7, an aggressive boar knocked down the pen walls separating it from another boar while personnel were away for the night. One boar died from exhaustion or cardiac arrest and the other was killed by lab personnel because of its aggressive actions. The inspection report directed MU to make sure pens keep animals separated and gave MU until Aug. 6 to correct the issue.
The regular inspection of MU animal facilities, conducted from May 23 to 25, found no problems. Budkie’s group filed the complaint a few days later, resulting in the June 6 visit.
Budkie said his organization has become aggressive in filing complaints because it found that reports made to the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare by research labs across the country didn’t result in many follow-up investigations. Based on his group’s complaints, he said, 40 facilities have been cited or fined.
“It seems it wasn’t happening until we were forcing it to happen,” he said.
There are no penalties associated with the findings of the inspection report, said Tanya Espinosa, spokeswoman for the department. Inspectors will visit again after Aug. 6 to make sure the promised improvements have been made, she said.
Inspections are done without notice so the facility does not have time to cover up issues, Espinosa said. Penalties can be assessed and are based on the magnitude of the problems, she said.
The USDA uses fines and other penalties to correct “repeat non-compliances, or if we have a facility with particularly egregious non-compliances,” she said.
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