USDA cites primate center

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USDA cites primate center

By Karen Nugent,

SOUTHBORO — Another monkey has died at the New England Primate Research Center, just a little more than a year after the Harvard Medical School facility was cited for sending a dead caged monkey through an automatic washer.

A July 19 inspection report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture says that in February, a primate undergoing experimental surgery was given an overdose of anesthesia that resulted in renal failure. The animal could not be saved and was euthanized.

In her report, Dr. Paula S. Gladue, a veterinarian and inspector for the agency, cited the center for poor training and instruction in the proper use of anesthetics and tranquilizers. After the incident, she said, the center’s veterinarian gave additional instruction and re-training to staff, and the incident is considered corrected.

Besides the use of unqualified personnel, four other citations for violating the federal Animal Welfare Act were issued by Dr. Gladue, including inadequate supervision, inadequate housing of animals, unsanitary conditions in operating rooms, and doing procedures on research animals that were not described in the center’s approved uses.

Dr. Gladue said the findings on the unapproved procedures, which were not described, are undergoing review by a subcommittee.

A statement from Harvard Medical School yesterday said that after a previous USDA report, two consultants were hired at the primate center to review the findings. As a result, action was taken to reinforce compliance and protocols. Some new research was temporarily halted so more information could be gathered to fix potential problems, and a subcommittee, including experts not from Harvard, was appointed to review the death.

Also, the statement said, the health and well-being of all primates were evaluated and confirmed; a new administrative oversight structure, which includes monitoring, was introduced in January; and staff was retrained.

“We value the work and dedication of the faculty and staff at the NEPRC, recognizing that countless life-saving therapies and interventions have been developed through ethical animal research, and scores of scientific discoveries have led to improved human health,” the statement said.

The primate center, on a 140-acre campus, is partially funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Michael A. Budkie, executive director of Ohio-based Stop Animal Exploitation Now, an organization that targets primate research facilities, said yesterday he sent a letter to the Maryland-based NIH questioning the awarding of federal grants to a research facility that has violated the Animal Welfare Act.

“It is clear that the staff of the Harvard Medical School were in violation of not only the Animal Welfare Act for performing unapproved and therefore illegal surgical procedures on animals, but that this has happened repeatedly at the Harvard Medical School,” Mr. Budkie said in the letter.

He also filed a complaint with the USDA against Harvard, because, he said, conditions have not changed since last year, when the primate center received five USDA citations, including the finding of the dead monkey in a cage that had just gone through the cage-washing system.

“It is clear that the staff of this lab, according to the inspection reports of the USDA, is unqualified,” Mr. Budkie said in the letter, dated yesterday. “This has not changed in over a year. Why has serious action not been taken against this facility?”

Yesterday, he questioned if Harvard officials are taking responsibility for supervising animal research in Southboro.

“How many more primates have died at Harvard due to negligence that we don’t know about?” he said.

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