Federal officials allege Santa Cruz company misled animal welfare inspectors

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Federal officials allege Santa Cruz company misled animal welfare inspectors

By Jessica M. Pasko, Santa Cruz Sentinel, Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Two animal rights organizations are renewing their calls for the federal government to crack down on a Santa   Cruz company that has repeatedly violated the animal welfare act and is suspected of misleading federal officials.

Federal officials have found animal welfare violations at Santa Cruz Biotechnology during inspection after inspection. In spite a number of violations during inspections that occurred from July 2007 to May 2012, the company has continued to offend.

U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors also allege that Santa Cruz Biotechnology failed to report 841 goats to the agency and lied about their existence.

In a revised report released Dec. 7, 2012, USDA staff wrote that during an Oct. 31 inspection, they found an additional 841 goats housed in a barn about nine miles from the Santa Cruz office. Facility staff were asked on previous visits if there were other animals being housed in another area, and had told federal inspectors there were not, the USDA report alleges.

"We will be looking into this, certainly," said David Sacks, spokesman for the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Washington D.C. "These facilities are supposed to let us know about all animals they have."

The findings were reported this week in the journal Nature (www.nature.com), which stated that Santa Cruz Biotechnology is the second-largest supplier of research antibodies in the U.S.

The USDA's most recent inspection, conducted Dec. 18, 2012, found two of 12 goats cited on the previous inspect report for significant health issues had been euthanized. Six of the other 10 goats cited were receiving appropriate treatment for their health conditions.

Another three goats were suffering from serious nasal discharge that hadn't been identified by the facility's staff, according to the report.

The USDA filed a complaint against the antibody facility in September for ongoing violations that included problems with handling of animals, inadequate veterinary care, improper food and unqualified personnel. Inspections conducted since the complaint was filed have found continued noncompliance.

It's possible the agency could decide to amend the pending complaint to include the subsequent violations or file an additional complaint, Sacks said. The parties have until Jan. 31 to reach a resolution, or the matter could head to a USDA court.

Santa Cruz Biotech had 6,515 rabbits and 9,419 goats in 2012, USDA records show.

Ohio-based Stop Animal Exploitation Now repeatedly has prevailed upon the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Secretary Tom Vilsack to take action against Santa Cruz Biotech. This week, Washington D.C.-based Animal Welfare Institute joined the call.

Cathy Liss, president of the Animal Welfare Institute, said her organization has sent a letter to Francis Collins, director of the National Institute of Health, to ask him to crack down on Santa Cruz Biotech, which supplies both "off-the-shelf" and custom-made antibodies.

Calls to Santa Cruz Biotechnology from the Sentinel repeatedly have gone unreturned. The company also declined to speak with reporters from Nature. 

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