Monkey is third animal to die in UH labs since 2012

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Monkey is third animal to die in UH labs since 2012

By Benjamin Wermund,, Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The University of Houston was hit with two federal citations after a juvenile rhesus monkey died of dehydration in a cage in a University of Houston lab in March. Two other monkeys were found clinically dehydrated in the same cage, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.

The monkey was the third animal to die in UH laboratories since September 2012, when another rhesus monkey was found dead with a laundry bag cord wrapped around its neck, according to USDA reports. In November, a rabbit died while being anesthetized.

'Unfortunate accidents'

Since October 2012, the USDA has cited UH seven times. Five of the citations were associated with the animal deaths.

"These very unfortunate accidents that have occurred since 2012 serve as a reminder of the diligence required to promote the respect and compassion needed to ensure the safety and care of all animals," UH spokesman Richard Bonnin said in a statement.

"Since the 2012 incident, the University of Houston has built a new primate center, which includes a new primate nursery. Extreme care is taken to ensure no objects are available in the nursery area that could cause harm or injury to the young animals," he said.

According to a June 11 USDA report, the monkeys that suffered from dehydration in March had closed a divider in their cage that they were not capable of reopening, effectively trapping themselves in the top half of the cage.

Hoses carried water to the second level, where the monkeys were trapped, but the animals disconnected the hoses.

No water for 15 hours

The monkeys were potentially without water for 15 hours, according to the report. One of the monkeys died and two were treated and recovered.

According to the report, UH researchers fixed the cage so that the divider wouldn't close.

The death led to two noncompliance citations from the USDA, a spokeswoman for the agency said.

The monkey that died in 2012, a 2-week-old rhesus, was in a cage near a hamper with three empty laundry bags on top.

The monkey was able to reach one of the bags through the bars of its cage. It was found dead with a cord wrapped around its neck, according to a report by the USDA released in February.

The citations can lead to fines, though UH has not been fined.

Problems at Harvard

The deaths of three monkeys in 19 months at a Harvard University primate research center sparked an investigation in 2012 by the USDA that resulted in a $24,036 fine for repeated animal welfare violations, according to reports in the Boston Globe. The fine covered 11 violations between February 2011 and July 2012. 

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