Harvard issued warning after mice deaths

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Harvard issued warning after mice deaths

By Brad Petrishen, MetroWest Daily News, Tuesday, August 21, 2012

BOSTON — Harvard  University was recently issued an official warning from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in relation to the death of 41 mice at a school laboratory in April.

In a warning issued July 29, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Regional Director Elizabeth Goldentyer said the school violated federal regulations by failing to provide potable water for “several” Peromyscus (field) mice who died after a connection between the water source and the watering system loosened.

“Any further violation of these regulations may result in the assessment of a civil penalty or criminal prosecution,” the notice reads.

According to a May 24 report of the Department of Agriculture, researchers at a university lab in Boston found 11 adult and 30 newborn deer mice dead in their cages on April 15.

The connection between the rack and the water source of the gravity-fed watering system had loosened, the inspector wrote, and the mice died because they didn’t have enough water.

The report says that the university corrected the problem by retraining staff and replacing the gravity system with a new automated watering system.

In a statement, Harvard  University spokesman Jeff Neal noted that staff immediately reported the incident to the government. The automatic water system will ensure no future incidents, he said.

“This type of research is critically important for advancing science, and Harvard continues to be committed to the proper treatment and humane care of mice and other animals being used as research subjects,” he wrote.

Michael Budkie, Executive Director of Ohio-based anti-animal testing group Stop Animal Exploitation Now!, said he was outraged by the warning, which he said was “nothing more than a paper slap on the wrist.

"This virtually meaningless enforcement action taken by the USDA is a betrayal of the 41 animals who died at Harvard,” he wrote in a release. “The general public should be outraged about the USDA’s refusal to take meaningful action in this incident.”

Harvard has been the target of a number of activist groups in recent months following the deaths of a number of monkeys at the New England Regional Primate Research  Center in Southborough.

The center, run by Harvard Medical  School, announced last week that it will begin to make changes at the center following the recommendations of an independent panel of scientists who conducted a five-month review of its operations.

The center has been inspected many times in the past several months. Other than a minor issue in a July 18 report, all the reports have been clean. The USDA s still conducting an investigation into the monkey deaths, and could levy fines against the university of up to $10,000 per violation of the Animal Welfare Act.

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