Abnormal hair loss among Oregon Health and Science University research monkeys triggers action plan

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Please contact Robert Gibbens to thank the USDA for citing Oregon Health and Science University & insist they finish the job and issue a major fine for the negligence which killed 7 primates and injured 15 others.

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Abnormal hair loss among Oregon Health & Science University research monkeys triggers action plan

By Nick Budnick, OregonLive.com, Thursday, May 8, 2014

More than half the rhesus macaques at an experimental research center of the Oregon Health & Science University are suffering abnormal hair loss, triggering the federal government to require OHSU adopt a plan to correct it.

The treatment plan comes on top of other corrective actions OHSU has taken at the Oregon National Primate Research Center in Hillsboro after a group of 260 rhesus macaques, apparently irritated by nearby construction noise, began fighting amongst themselves in June 2013, leading to the hospitalization of 21 of them. Six died or were euthanized.

The information is found in an April 2 U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection report released by Michael Budkie of the Ohio-based group Stop Animal Exploitation Now. He called for the USDA to issue the maximum penalty possible for "incompetent" care.

OHSU officials have defended their efforts to ensure ethical and humane treatment of animals. On Thursday the university released a statement that the issues are being dealt with and that OHSU reported many of them to the federal government, rather than waiting until an inspection. The university hosts public tours and publicly posts inspection reports online.

The primate center houses about 5,000 primates, the bulk of them rhesus macaques. They are used for research into areas such as stem cells, preventing hereditary diseases in newborns and an HIV vaccine.

But animal welfare laws enforced by the federal government require humane conditions, hence the regular inspections by the USDA.

After the outbreak of fighting last July, OHSU halted construction and relocated the monkeys, then upgraded their corral with "enrichment" such as swimming tubs, branches and treats, while improving their housing and placing them under monitoring by the center's Behavioral Services Unit, according to the report.

The inspection also found dirty bedding, cracked walls making it hard to disinfect, and that a monkey died during an operation, apparently because of faulty use of an anesthesia machine.

While hair loss is normal for birthing mothers, at the OHSU facility "animals of all ages and both genders are affected," the report said, calling for behavioral therapy and research to solve the problem. Macaque hair loss can have physical or psychological causes and "negatively influences the skin protection and thermoregulation abilities of the affected animals." 

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