USDA: 3 decomposed monkeys show New Iberia primate center didn't make required daily checks

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Please contact Dr. Gibbens and demand that he take immediate action against the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, for the negligent deaths of three primates at the New Iberia Research Center.

Dr. Robert Gibbens
Director, Western Region
2150 Center Ave.
Building B, Mailstop 3W11
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USDA: 3 decomposed monkeys show New Iberia primate center didn't make required daily checks

From, June 23, 2011

NEW IBERIA, La. ˜ Three rhesus monkeys died and decomposed while trapped in a passage between cages at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette's primate research center, showing that staff failed to make required daily checks, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service report, dated May 31, states that it is based on information from the New Iberia Research Center's director, who reported the deaths.

Director Thomas Rowell said Thursday the monkeys were found May 26 in a metal box used to move monkeys between outdoor cages, and he notified USDA that morning.

"The staff was devastated. I had people in my office crying," he said. He said they still have not recovered.

Rowell said that such passages are generally set up with a single door rather than an airlock-style door at each end, to ensure that animals cannot get trapped. The staff immediately checked all cages with transfer boxes and found that the rest had just one door, he said. "This was an isolated incident."

The center's 6,500 primates include more than 5,000 rhesus monkeys, according to a USDA inspection report from September.

The executive director of the animal rights group Stop Animal Exploitation Now said the deaths also indicate that the research facility is "either drastically understaffed, or the staff is completely unqualified.

"How else can the unnoticed deaths of multiple primates be explained?" said Michael A. Budkie,

He asked APHIS to cite the center for additional violations of the Animal Welfare Act and to fine it.

The agency found complaints SAEN made in 2009 to be unfounded, Rowell said. He said the center's top management and its Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee are investigating the rhesus deaths. "We'll be holding ourselves accountable, as well as the USDA," he said.

The USDA inspected the center on March 17, 2009, after the Humane Society of the United States released videotape of what it described as physical and psychological abuse of animals there. It found six violations of the Animal Welfare Act; an inspection report at the end of April 2009 said only that all had been corrected.

A March 31, 2009, report of an inspection in response to a complaint by SAEN said only, "All applicable items in compliance."

On another matter, Rowell said the center hasn't seen any effects from a fire June 14 at a nearby oilfield chemical company, but is keeping an eye on the 800 animals in that general area and the 120 closest to the fire.

"The Department of Environmental Quality was taking air samples at 15-second intervals ... and at no time was there any elevation in the air contamination for the chemicals they were monitoring," he said.

Nonetheless, he said, they'll be comparing the animals' health with records from the same time last year, looking for any unexplained illnesses, stillbirths or abortions, or deaths.

Rowell said there's also a possibility that all of the animals could have been stressed because their routines were changed: rather than having people around from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., people were allowed into the center only for two hours at a time, four hours apart, and the animals could be fed only once a day rather than the usual twice-daily meals.

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