WaNPRC accused of violating the Animal Welfare Act

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WaNPRC accused of violating the Animal Welfare Act

By Sasha Glenn, DailyUW.com, Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Washington National Primate Research Center (WaNPRC), commonly known as the UW Primate Center, has regularly been the subject of protest, but after the deaths of four primates, animal rights groups have decided to take action.

Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN) filed an official complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) alleging that the WaNPRC violated the Animal Welfare Act, resulting in the deaths of the four primates.

At a press conference July 30, Michael Budkie, executive director of SAEN, released internal documents regarding the deaths of the primates used in research at the WaNPRC, which occurred between November 2012 and June 2013. He also released the official complaint SAEN filed with the USDA, resulting in an inspection of the research centers.

The documents, obtained through a public records request, show that one of the primates had been euthanized after exhibiting signs of self-mutilation. SAEN claims this behavior is evidence of psychological distress and suffering. The complaint notes this may be evidence of violations of section 3.81 of the Animal Welfare Act, Environmental enhancement to promote psychological well-being.

The internal documentation released by Budkie showed the monkey had ripped off parts of its left hand. Budkie said he feels this was due to the monkey being psychologically disturbed by the hardware attached to its body. According to Budkie, this was one of the worst cases of suffering he had found in his 28-year career.

“After a month of self-abuse, the University of Washington finally got around to euthanizing this monkey,” Budkie said. “We feel like that’s something that should’ve happened much, much sooner.”

SAEN claims three other non-primate deaths may be evidence of violations of section 2.33, Attending veterinarian and adequate veterinary care.

Two of the primates developed infections and were euthanized, along with another primate that developed diabetes, unrelated to the research it was being used for.

“We’ve uncovered information that clearly demonstrates that the University of Washington continues to violate federal law in what is federally funded experimentation,” Budkie said.

Budkie said SAEN is primarily focused on monitoring the use of animals in research and pays particular attention to the WaNPRC. The organization hopes that the UW will close the primate research center, just as Harvard University plans to close its primate research center in 2015.

In an official statement regarding animal care at the UW, the UW Office of Animal Welfare claimed a high level of transparency and compliance with regulations, and said the deaths of the animals were the result of humane euthanasia.

According to Tanya Espinosa, a spokesperson from the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Office of Legislative and Public Affairs, SAEN’s complaint at the UW Seattle facilities resulted in an investigation. Inspection reports have not yet been finalized. Once the reports have been finalized, the UW has 21 days to appeal the findings. If violations are found, the USDA will then move forward by launching an investigation at that time.

Adding to the pressure on the center, two protests were held at the Primate Center on Western Avenue in the latter half of July.

Protesters who gathered at the primate center on July 28 made it clear that they feel that research on non-human primates is unethical and should be stopped.

Rachel Bjork, Northwest Animal Rights Network (NARN) board president, was a primary organizer of the protests. She said monitoring is not enough to ensure that negligent practices don’t occur and NARN wants the UW to end the research completely.

“We need to speak up,” Bjork said. “We need to tell our legislators that we don’t want the National Institutes of Health paying for it. We can tell the University of Washington that we don’t want this kind of thing going on on campus. The students, this is their university. I really hope they would care enough to speak up and say something about it.”

UW undergraduate Sarah Olson attended the protest on behalf of Campus Animal Rights Educators, a UW student group affiliated with NARN. Its main goal on campus is to raise awareness about the research being done at the primate center. The group feels that the UW should invest in alternatives and should not use funding to support further animal experimentation.

“A lot of students don’t know that it’s happening on their very own campus,” Olson said. “They have a voice and regardless of whether administration is listening now, enough student voices is what will get them to listen.”

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