Complaint filed against UNR over deaths of 3 sheep who died of thirst

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Please contact Dr. Gibbens and demand that he take immediate action against the University of Nevada, Reno, for the negligence which caused three sheep to die of dehydration.

Dr. Robert Gibbens
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Complaint filed against UNR over deaths of 3 sheep who died of thirst

By Lenita Powers, Reno Gazette Journal, Friday, August 17, 2012e

An animal rights group filed a complaint Friday with the U.S. Department of Agriculture seeking federal fines against the University of Nevada, Reno for the deaths last year of three sheep that died of thirst.

The deaths occurred in September 2011, according to a USDA follow-up inspection report filed July 9 of this year.

Ten sheep, which were being kept in a pen at UNR’s Main Station Field Laboratory off South McCarran Boulevard near Mill Street, had not been given water for five days, according to the report.

“Three of the 10 animals in the pen expired,” the report states. “One was found expired and, during treatment, two others expired.”

Ron Pardini, dean of UNR’s College of Agriculture, did not return a Reno Gazette-Journal reporter’s telephone calls for comment, but UNR released a written statement.

“This was an incredibly disappointing incident and we take this very seriously,” UNR President Marc Johnson said in the statement. “We have adopted a zero-tolerance position, and our personnel actions and operational changes reflect this stance.”

Michael Budkie, executive director of Ohio-based animal advocacy group Stop Animal Exploitation Now, said Friday the university should be fined for the animals’ deaths.

“There is no criminal aspect to the federal law,” Budkie said. “The only entity that can be penalized is the university itself, and we believe it is important they receive as many citations as possible because the maximum monetary penalty is $10,000 per infraction.”

That maximum is not typically imposed and often such fines are substantially reduced, Budkie said.

“But the monetary fine should be administered in a way that has a real punitive effect,” he said.

“What if you only got a $3 ticket for speeding?”

This is not the first report of animal deaths, mistreatment or neglect at UNR.

In 2005, UNR paid an $11,400 reduced fine after the USDA cited the university for 46 violations of federal animal welfare regulations that occurred between Mary 25, 2004 and March 2005.

The federal agency did not cite UNR for the deaths of 45 pregnant sheep who died in October 2002 after being left without food or water for up to four days.

David Thawley, who was then the dean of UNR’s College of Agriculture, called the incident surrounding the deaths of those sheep “a mystery.”

This latest USDA report concerning last September’s deaths of the three sheep at UNR said the troughs were located inside the pen where the animals were kept, so the only way to check their water was to enter the pen.

“The animals were observed daily, but the water troughs were not actually checked for water,” the report states.

“The caretakers were not going into the pens to physically observe the waterers. They were recording that they had gone into the pens and observed the waterers,” the report noted. “However, they had not actually done that. They were terminated as a result of the findings of the facility.”

In its written statement, UNR calls the deaths “a very unfortunate, isolated incident on a farm owned by the University of Nevada, Reno...”

“The incident was promptly reported and an investigation by veterinary professionals began immediately,” according to the statement. “Follow-up actions, including operational changes and training, have been completed to protect this from happening again. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service reflected the changes in procedure in its report.

“Proper standard operating procedures were in place and this incident was the result of human error. Appropriate personnel actions were taken,” the statement notes.

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