Animal rights group assails Yale on lab animal deaths

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Animal rights group assails Yale on lab animal deaths

By Jim Shelton,, Wednesday, April 2, 2014

NEW HAVEN  - An animal rights group has filed a federal complaint against Yale University, citing documents that allege 33 animal deaths due to negligence in university research labs.

Stop Animal Exploitation NOW, a group based in Ohio, is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to levy a fine of at least $60,000 against Yale. The group filed the complaint Monday at the USDA’s Eastern regional office in North Carolina.

“If prestigious institutions such as Yale can’t follow basic guidelines in its treatment of laboratory animals, doesn’t it put into question the value of this research in the first place?” said Michael Budkie, SAEN’s executive director.

“The general public is often led to believe that because facilities are inspected, it means the animals are OK and there’s nothing to worry about,” Budkie said. “But everything is not OK, based on what we’re seeing in government documents.”

Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said the university is unaware of any complaint filed with the USDA. He also noted that Yale self-reported all of the animal deaths listed by SAEN to the proper authorities.

“Yale takes seriously its responsibility for the humane care of animals,” Conroy said. “Our self-monitoring programs meet or exceed federal regulations and independent accreditation standards.”

The SAEN complaint comes from instances of alleged noncompliance with the Animal Welfare Act, reported to the National Institutes of Health. It covers a period from 2012 to 2013, but includes references to incidents prior to those years.

The incidents included the deaths of a dog, 17 hamsters and 15 mastomys, which are rodents.

According to the documents obtained by SAEN, the laboratory dog death occurred in 2011, after a backup oxygen tank malfunctioned during an intubation procedure. The hamsters died in 2012 after a lab worker failed to perform a morning assessment of the animals. The mastomys died in 2012 after being given an oral vaccine.

Conroy said in each case, Yale took steps to improve its procedures in caring for lab animals and no action was deemed necessary by federal regulators.

Budkie said SAEN’s complaint does not include many of the most common lab animals, such as mice, rats and fish. Those species are not covered by the same reporting guidelines.

SAEN has filed USDA complaints against four other universities: the University of Washington-Seattle, the University of California-Davis, the University of Houston and the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.

“We are going to keep going through this data,” Budkie said. “We think we’re going to see a rash of citations.”  

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