Harvard's New England Primate Research Center cited for animal death

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Please contact Elizabeth Goldentyer to demand that Harvard Medical School receive the largest fine possible under the Animal Welfare Act for the negligence which killed a monkey during an imaging procedure.

This is the third time in 1 1/2 years that negligence at the Medical School has killed a primate. During the same time period Harvard University negligence killed a goat, and negligence at two Harvard Medical School affiliated Hospitals killed another five animals. So far the USDA has issued only an Official Warning against Harvard's Medical School. Clearly USDA inaction has contributed to the continuing deaths at these facilities.

Please insist that the USDA issue a fine, and let Dr. Goldentyer know that you hold her personally responsible for the USDA's inaction, and the deaths of these animals. She MUST take action now!

Dr. Elizabeth Goldentyer
920 Main Campus Drive, Suite 2000
Raleigh, NC 27606

[email protected]


Harvard’s New England Primate Research Center cited for animal death

By Carolyn Y. Johnson, Boston.com, January 10, 2012

An inspection by the US Department of Agriculture in December found a handful of problems at the New England Primate Research Center, a Harvard Medical School facility in Southborough, involving the handling, housing, and well-being of primates -- including the death of one primate.

The report, posted online today, details five citations. The death, which occurrred after an animal escaped from its cage, is the second non-human primate death in 2011 at an animal facility operated by Harvard. In February, a primate died at a separate Harvard Medical School animal facility when anaesthesia was improperly administered. In June 2010, a primate was found dead at the New England Primate Research Center after its cage went through a mechanical washer.

In October 2010, in a letter to Harvard Medical School, Elizabeth Goldentyer, eastern regional director of animal care at the USDA issued an official warning.

“This notice is being issued at this time as a serious warning that if you fail to comply with the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act in the future, this citation and all past and future documented violations will be used to justify a more severe penalty,” Goldentyer wrote.

Harvard Medical School said in a statement that it is committed to following regulations and requirements to ensure biomedical research is ethical.

“We take the USDA findings seriously and deeply regret the situation that led to this recent report,” the statement said. “The issues raised by the USDA were promptly corrected. We, working in tandem with new NEPRC leadership, are unwavering in our commitment to continuous quality improvement and to ensuring stringent compliance that enables us to exceed the highest standards of animal welfare and veterinary care.”

In one of the new citations, a primate scheduled to undergo an imaging procedure escaped during transfer from its enclosure to the procedure room. It was caught with a net and underwent the imaging, but after it was returned to its cage, a staff member saw that the animal was not moving and a veterinarian confirmed the animal had died. The death was reported to federal agencies.

“All animals should be handled by scientists, research technicians, and animal technicians as expeditioulsy and carefully as possible in a manner that does not cause behavioral stress, physical harm, or unnecessary discomfort to ensure the health and well-being of the animals,” the report stated. “The research facility has taken appropriate steps to address and correct this item.”

Several citations referred to the suitability of the enclosures where primates are housed. Problems noted included the conditions of some enclosures and whether primates had enough space.

The last citation occurred because patterns of hair loss or unusual behaviors among several primates that suggested they were suffering psychological distress.

In all cases, the report stated that the inspector found no evidence that the unusual behaviors or appearances of the animals had been noted by staff.

The Harvard statement said that last summer, non-compliance issues were self-identified and voluntarily reported at the New England Primate Research Center.

“We recognized that these issues required significant review of our operations and engaged in a review that includes outside consultants as well as external veterinary peers at other institutions. We are also working with federal authorities in an effort to strengthen our processes and to help ensure that we are consistently applying best practices,” the statement said. “Our review identified a need for a reorganization of our scientific, administrative and veterinary leadership at the NEPRC, and we have begun this process.”

Michael Budkie, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now, an animal protection organization focused on laboratory animals, said that he would write to the USDA to urge that a fine by levied on the primate center.

Budkie said the federal agency’s 2010 warning letter needed to be followed up with more stringent disciplinary action.

“It’s very clear the actions the USDA has taken in the past do not or were not suffficient to bring the primate center into compliance with federal law,” Budkie said.

Carolyn Y. Johnson can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @carolynyjohnson.

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