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Media Coverage

Animal care questioned

From the Wilmington Advocate
By Mac McEntire, Staff Writer
Thu Mar 06, 2008, 10:55 AM EST

Wilmington - A national animal rights organization has targeted an animal testing company, headquartered in Wilmington, with allegations of primate amputation.

Ohio native Michael Budkie, representing Stop Animal Exploitation Now, an organization highlighting the abuse to animals, recently sent a letter to Elizabeth Goldentyer of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) detailing his concerns.

Budkie’s comments are not about the Wilmington facility, though he has staged protests in Wilmington in the past. Instead, his allegations have to do with another Charles River facility in Sparks, Nev. Referencing a USDA/APHIS report dated March 22, 2007, Budkie said the facility caused the injuries of four primates, which resulting in some of the animals’ fingers being amputated. The same report states that the situation was corrected three days later.

“I know that your office considers major violations of the Animal Welfare Act to be very serious in nature, especially when these violations directly impact the lives of animals and potentially endanger public safety,” Budkie wrote in his letter to the USDA. “The treatment of animals at this facility illustrates attitudes of carelessness and contempt for regulations that must be punished so that meaningful changes can be made.”

“The animal enclosures were placed in a manner that did not protect the animals from injury,” the USDA report states. “A surface was placed on transport carts causing injury to digits in primates. The enclosures should be placed in such a way that does not cause injury to the animals. Solid surfaces should be placed downward to prevent animal injury.”

On Nov. 29, 2006, the report states that a primate was being moved in its crate to another area. During transport it got its fingers caught in the wiring of the cage and the surface of the transporter. Part of the animal’s hand had to be amputated.

Then, the report states, on Nov. 30, 2006, a primate being moved in its cage, and part of its hand also got caught in the wiring between the cage and the surface of the transporter. Part of its hand also had to be amputated.

Another incident occurred on Nov. 30, 2006, when another primate got its fingers caught between the cage and the transporter. One digit had to be amputated.

Finally, on Dec. 1, 2006, the report states, a primate got its tail caught between the cage and the transporter. The tail was lacerated and had to be treated.

The report defined the animals’ “transporter” as a “dolly or flat bed cart.”

“The situation was corrected in three days,” the report states. “The cause of these incidents were corrected prior to the USDA inspection, and the facility needs to ensure that all future moves are safe for the animals.”

Amy Cianciaruso, assistant director of public relations for Charles River, said Wednesday that steps were taken to prevent these incidents from happening again.

“We’ve made changes to rectify the problem so it won’t happen again,” she said.

Charles River Laboratories provides research models, laboratory animal support services, preclinical services, and clinical services to the biomedical industry, with a focus on improving human and animal health. Cianciaruso said the animals at Charles River must be kept safe and healthy to ensure the best results for the company’s research.

“We have a huge commitment to animal welfare,” she said. “It’s at the root of everything we do.”

Cianciaruso said the use of animals at Charles River is required by law before the medicines go to market.

“Laboratory animals are an important resource that further our knowledge of living systems and contribute to the discovery of life-saving drugs and procedures,” the Charles River Web site states. “At Charles River, we work hand-in-hand with the scientific community to understand how living conditions, handling procedures, and stress play an important role in the quality and efficiency of research. As animal caregivers and researchers, we are responsible to our clients and the public for the health and well being of the animals in our care.”

The site also states that the company has its own Animal Welfare and Training Group, consisting of professionals trained in laboratory animal medicine, as well as science, education and ethics.

Charles River Laboratories is headquartered in Wilmington, at 251 Ballardvale St. It is one of the largest employers in Massachusetts, with more than 1,300 employees in Wilmington and its new Shrewsbury location. The Boston Business Journal named Charles River the company of the year in 2006.

Charles River Laboratories - Wilmington, MA

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