USDA: Princeton University mishandled lab primates

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PRINCETON BOROUGH - A group of primates participating in animal research at Princeton University may have been receiving water at levels below the minimum amount allowed by federal guidelines and also may not have been properly administered painkillers following surgeries, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspection report obtained yesterday by The Times.

The citations are among 11 procedural violations reported during a routine inspection of the facility, which university officials said houses 15 macaques and 10 marmosets, conducted in June.

According to the report, a copy of which was provided by the organization Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN), non-human primates (NHPs) used in the research "at times " are offered water on a schedule that is less than the minimum required."

The other citations charge that the university was negligent in following certain reporting protocols required of animal researchers.

Federal guidelines for the treatment of research animals were established under the Animal Welfare Act, which was originally passed in 1966.

Under the standards, researchers are allowed to use a process known as "water scheduling" or "fluid restriction" wherein water or juice is used as a reward for getting animals to participate in various experiments.

The report also cited Princeton for animals undergoing more than one surgical procedure when research proposals indicated they would only be undergoing one.

However, officials with Princeton chalked up most of the violations to improper maintenance of records.

"Overall, I think most of it was oversight and documentation procedures that we were already aware of and in the process of correcting," said Emily Aronson, a university spokeswoman, yesterday.

She also pointed out Princeton University's high marks with the USDA for the cleanliness of their labs and the good health reported among the animals.

"As was noted by the USDA during its recent site visit, Princeton's labs are immaculate and the animals are healthy," she said.

All experiments conducted on animals are overseen by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), a body that federal law dictates be established at all institutions that do such research.

At Princeton, Aronson said, the committee includes a veterinarian, a practicing scientist with experience in animal research, and a member of the Princeton-area community.

"Princeton University has assumed the ethical responsibility of compliance with their requirements and provides appropriate oversight for the welfare of animals used in all research and educational activities," she said.

The oversight comes as little comfort for officials with SAEN.

"On the one hand, the researchers want to claim that the animals are similar enough to us that the research would have some sort of validity, but that on the other they say that doing all these things to them would not cause them any unrelieved pain and distress," said Michael Budkie, the group's executive director. "You can't have it both ways."

Despite the citations and the general unease that some may have when it comes to animal research, Aronson said the general public stands to gain a great deal from the research being conducted by the university.

"Princeton participates in the practice of using non-human primates and other animals in highly regulated research activities in order to make significant discoveries that benefit humankind," she said.

According to a search with the National Institutes of Health, Princeton University has filed projects, among others, to study the multi-sensory integration of faces and voices in the primate temporal lobe.

Aronson said that, in addition to the primates, the university also conducts research with guinea pigs, rats, mice, and salamanders.

See Also:
Princeton University
27 Jul 2010 - Botched Surgery Kills Dog at UMDNJ; Princeton hit with Multiple Federal violations USDA Issues Damning Reports
Princeton University cited for violations of USDA rules for lab animals - 31 Jul 2010
USDA finds University mistreated lab primates - 30 Jul 2010
Princeton cited for problems with lab monkeys - 28 Jul 2010
USDA: Princeton University mishandled lab primates - 28 Jul 2010

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