UTMB pays $33K to settle animal abuse
By Harvey Rice, Chron.com, November 21, 2016
GALVESTON –The University of Texas Medical Branch has paid $33,000 to a federal agency to settle complaints about its treatment of monkeys for research, UTMB said in a statement Monday.
The payment was the result of investigations by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which enforces federal animal-welfare laws, and the federal Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare that began in 2015 following an audit.USDA officials were not immediately available for comment.
The audit report found that eight of 12 monkeys suffered painful deaths
after being infected with Marburg, a rare virus found in Africa that is as
deadly as Ebola, because researchers allegedly failed to follow proper
"It is unknown how long these animals might have suffered before dying," said the audit by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The UTMB statement said that the medical school, which operates the National Laboratory where deadly diseases are studied, did not dispute findings that UTMB "did not handle animals as carefully as possible, did not properly communicate with UTMB's internal animal care committee before making changes in a study and that updated information was not provided to the former attending veterinarian."
After Brian Gordon's firing as attending veterinarian, he filed a complaint with the USDA about animal handling and then brought a lawsuit alleging that he was wrongfully dismissed because he tried to bring improper practices to the attention of UTMB officials.
"The problem is the administration there," Gordon said. "They think the way
to handle things is to cover it up rather than admit it's true."
Complaints were also filed by the group Stop Animal Exploitation Now!
"A $33,000 fine is grossly inadequate in terms of punishment to UTMB for the Animal Welfare Act violations they had," SAEN spokesman Michael Budkie said. "This doesn't even cover the market value of the monkeys they killed."
The Animal Welfare Act requires that "minimum standards of care and treatment be provided for certain animals bred for commercial sale, used in research, transported commercially, or exhibited to the public," according to the Agriculture Department.
The UTMB statement says that it has improved its animal handling by hiring four new veterinarians, changing the leadership of its animal care program, increasing staff training, enhancing oversight and improving policies and procedures.
"Our scientists, veterinarians and animal care employees are dedicated and devoted to caring for the animals while, at the same time, understanding that the animals' involvement in research may lead to the next scientific breakthrough and improvement to the quality of life," the statement said.
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