Watchdog group targets OSU for federal investigation

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Tell the USDA to levy a HUGE FINE against Oklahoma State University for multiple Animal Welfare Act violations relevant to guinea pigs, gerbils, cows, and pouched rats.
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Watchdog group targets OSU for federal investigation

By Kassie McClung,, Friday, August 29, 2014

An animal watchdog group has filed a complaint with federal officials and is asking for a new federal investigation after obtaining reports of dozens of animal deaths, illegal surgeries and the permanent suspension of a researcher at Oklahoma State University.

Stop Animal Exploitation Now, based in Milford, Ohio, is asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fine and investigate OSU for violating the Animal Welfare Act in its negligent care of animals.

Correspondence between OSU and the National Institutes of Health, dated Nov. 15, 2013, recounts incidents in which an OSU researcher was permanently suspended after using unapproved methods of euthanasia on guinea pigs and gerbils to be used as raptor food.

The report did not include how many rodents were involved in the incident.

Michael Budkie, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now, said OSU clearly took the occurrence seriously because of the suspension and revised laboratory protocols.

Other reports recount multiple unapproved surgeries performed on cows in a laboratory that teaches students surgical techniques.

Additional reports describe the death of 76 rats during shipment.

Budkie said the group also filed a complaint against Delta Air Lines because the animals died while being shipped to OSU.

"Seventy-six out of 80 pouched rats died en route coming from Ghana," he said. "We're not yet certain if OSU would be held responsible."

Budkie said because OSU receives federal funding, it is required to report any animal welfare noncompliance to the NIH. However, the NIH doesn't enforce the laws or report noncompliance to the USDA.

"That means we have one federal agency giving money to labs they know are breaking federal laws without telling the other agency that these things are happening," he said. "There's something really wrong with that picture."

Stop Animal Exploitation Now used NIH reports as a basis to file a complaint to the USDA, Budkie said. The watchdog group began its investigation of OSU after a Sept. 13, 2013, USDA report cited a university lab for the death of 15 voles due to dehydration.

Budkie said the USDA commonly fines $10,000 per violation. In some cases, the USDA charges per animal, per violation.  OSU will likely be fined a minimum of $30,000, he said.

"I think, on one level, clearly the system in OSU is broken because otherwise these serious non-compliances could have never happened," Budkie said. "That's something that needs to be addressed on larger scales, not just in terms of citations and fines. For OSU to even just take minimal steps, they need to seriously revamp their system."

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