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Media Coverage

USDA fines UCD for deaths of seven laboratory monkeys
See: University of California, Davis CA

Mechanical failure caused overheating in animals' housing in August 2004

By: Sonia Parecadan
Issue date: 12/8/05 Section: Campus News

UC Davis has paid a $4,815 civil penalty to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the deaths of seven adult cynomolgus monkeys in August 2004. The deaths were attributed to a mechanical failure that led to overheating a room in the Center for Laboratory Animal Science, where the animals were housed.

"We deeply regret this sad incident and we accepted the USDA's fine without challenge," said Stan Nosek, vice chancellor for administration, in a press release.

UC Davis officials reported the accident to the USDA immediately after it took place. The investigation conducted by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service determined that the university had been in violation of federal regulations and charged the civil penalty. The specific charge the inspectors cited was the poor condition of the room's thermostat and cutoff switch.

According to Nosek, steps have been taken to ensure that a similar incident never occurs again.

For example, campus officials have been performing an audit of all environmental monitoring systems in animal housing since August 2004. The audit will likely be complete by February 2006.

Since the deaths, the other 32 monkeys that were housed at the location were moved to the campus' California National Primate Research Center, which has 24-hour environmental alarm systems throughout. The location at the Center for Lab Animal Science has not been used for animal housing since the incident.

"This was an exceptional incident," Nosek said. "If we ever need to put non-human primates anywhere besides the primate center, we will ensure that there are working environmental alarm systems in place."

However, some animal rights activists feel that such steps are not satisfactory in ensuring the safety and well-being of animals on campus, such as those housed at the primate center.

UC Davis senior Pete Hernandez, a member of Students Together for Animal Rights, said that while he thinks it is good that the university is being penalized for what happened, he does not feel that important issues are being addressed.

Hernandez said he disagrees fundamentally with the current conditions that animals on campus are subjected to. The steps that are being taken, he said, will not ultimately end the plight of animals on campus. He said, as an example, that animals at the California National Primate Center experience a "nightmare" every day.

Located several miles west of the UC Davis main campus, the primate center houses approximately 4,800 monkeys. Employees at the center are currently studying gene therapy and stem-cell therapy, and they say that the facility is crucial to advance scientific research.

Hernandez, however, said the primate center contributes to ongoing animal abuse at UC Davis.

"Even if the fine takes a chunk out of their pockets, the primate center is well-funded and will continue to flourish," he said. "The cruel experiments, many of which are frivolous and fruitless, will go on. And the animals will continue to be subjected to conditions that are unnatural and harmful."

SONIA PARECADAN can be reached at [email protected] 



See: University of California, Davis CA

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