Primate deaths draw inquiry

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Primate deaths draw inquiry

From, June 24, 2011

LAFAYETTE — U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors will review whether there were any “actual violations” of the Animal Welfare Act that led to the deaths of three rhesus macaques in late May at the New Iberia Research Center, a USDA spokesman said Thursday.

On May 26, the remains of the three animals were discovered in a chute in one of the outdoor cages where the animals are housed, Dr. Thomas J. Rowell, NIRC director, said in an email.

Rowell reported the incident to the USDA, which cited the center for “failing to make daily observations of their animals” – a requirement of the Animal Welfare Act, said Dave Sacks, USDA spokesman.

It’s too soon to know whether the NIRC faces any “actual violations” or fines, Sacks said.

“We’re in the process of looking into it fully,” Sacks said.

The NIRC is a University of Louisiana at Lafayette facility that breeds and manages primates used for research purposes.

The rhesus macaques’ remains were decomposed, meaning the animals “had been trapped for some time and not properly monitored,” according to a USDA inspection report dated May 31, which is available on the federal agency’s website.

As of Thursday, Rowell reported that no inspector had visited the center.

Meanwhile, the NIRC is going through its own review of the assessment.

“The three animals in question did not receive the level of care that they were accustomed to having at this center,” Rowell said. “Currently, we are finalizing the review assessing the failure and ultimately we will be initiating corrective action and holding ourselves accountable along with the USDA.”

Rowell said staff who discovered the animals were “devastated,” and “they still have not recovered.”

The animal rights group, Stop Animal Exploitation Now, issued a news release about the USDA report Wednesday and requested the USDA issue “severe penalties” against the center.

In May 2010, the NIRC paid $18,000 to the USDA as part of a settlement agreement related to alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act that were documented by inspectors in 2009. Inspectors cited six areas of non-compliance, but did not find any signs of animal mistreatment, according to inspection records.

The inspection came after complaints filed by the Humane Society of the United States, which released a video captured by a Humane Society investigator working undercover at the center.

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