Complaint: Fine UC for animal testing problems

Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!
S. A. E. N.
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Please contact the USDA to insist on a major fine for University of Cincinnati for the negligence which did not provide adequate pain relieve to rabbits.

Dr. Elizabeth Goldentyer
USDA/APHIS/AC 920 Main Campus Drive, Suite 2000 Raleigh, NC 27606
919) 855-7100
[email protected]


Complaint: Fine UC for animal testing problems

By Jessica Brown,, Friday, September 12, 2014

A Milford animal rights group wants the University of Cincinnati fined for how it treated rabbits in animal testing labs.

Stop Animal Exploitation Now, which describes itself as a national research watchdog organization, filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture last month claiming the university violated the federal Animal Welfare Act.

Among the claims: UC failed to provide adequate anesthesia for rabbits and did not have a sufficiently trained staff. It made the same allegations – and some additional ones – about the university's handling of rats and mice, although those claims weren't included in the complaint because rats and mice aren't governed by the animal welfare act.

"I find it extremely disturbing," said SAEN Executive Director Michael Budkie, a graduate of UC's Animal Health Technician program.

"It is clear that major problems exist in UC's experimental programs. With all of these deficiencies, why should we believe that UC labs are capable of doing anything that even remotely resembles science?"

The University of Cincinnati, however, said these sorts of problems are rare and the results of its research are life-saving. When compliance issues do happen, the university reports them to the National Institute of Health and corrects them immediately. That was the case here. It sent a memo April 4, 2013, describing the lapses and the extra precautions it has since taken.

"We take very good care of the animals," said George Babcock, chair of the university's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

Babcock said at the time the problems occurred, the USDA had determined the university had handled the problems issues properly.

"We self report everything. They then follow up on whatever incidents occur. They found that we responded correctly."

SAEN didn't file its complaint until last month because it just recently obtained the UC self-reporting memos.

Budkie said the bigger issue is a lack of punishment when problems are reported. He thinks labs, many of which get millions of dollars in research grants, get off too easily when violations occur.

"We're trying to get some enforcement actions to happen," he said. "Anesthesia issues like this ... are accomplished successfully every day in veterinary offices across the city. If UC can't care for animals as well as veterinarians in town they deserve a severe penalty."

The university's federally mandated Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee has oversight over all of the animal testing at the university. That includes nearly 30,000 animals, mostly rodents.

UC officials noted that the incident involving the rabbits took place more than a year ago. "These problems have all been corrected long ago," said Babcock.

Budkie said SAEN's current complaints against labs across the country have resulted in 11 of them being cited by the USDA for violating the Animal Welfare Act. Two have received official warnings and some of the others will likely be fined, Budkie said. Some had multiple violations. At least one reported an animal had died as a result of the infractions.

The USDA can't shut labs down, but it can fine them. Sometimes public pressure encourages additional changes, Budkie said. A spokeswoman said the agency is reviewing the UC complaint to determine whether to open an investigation.

No animals died as a result of the incident at UC, which was first discussed by Babcock's committee in February 2013. According to Babcock, several rabbits had been undergoing surgeries for cancer research. A ophthalmologist was implanting a slow-release compound into the rabbits' eyes to treat the cancer. The lab normally tests on rodents but was required to prove the procedure worked on non-rodent species before it began clinical trials, he said.

According to the documentation, two rabbits were not consistently maintained under anesthesia for the duration of the operation and another was under-dosed. Babcock said there were no signs that the animals had suffered pain during the procedure.

He said everyone in the room, including a veterinarian, was adequately trained.

UC officials said they would love to not have to test on animals, but animal research is an essential part of creating life-saving medical treatments.

"This isn't done to just do something with these animals," he said," said Richard Puff, a UC spokesman. "A lot of major medical milestones have come out."

Animal research has helped create a drug that helps premature babies' lungs develop. It's saved countless babies' lives, he said. It also created engineered skin that is used to treat burn patients.

Babcock said problems with animal testing are rare. He blamed the rabbit incident on poor communication and isn't aware of other incidents that have occurred since.

"This was a new procedure. That's what research is all about," he said. "Sometimes it has to be the first procedure done. Sometimes it doesn't go by the book."

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