Mayo cited by USDA for burning monkey

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Please contact the USDA to insist on a fine for the Mayo Clinic for the negligence which seriously injured a monkey.

Dr. Elizabeth Goldentyer
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Mayo cited by USDA for burning monkey

By Rachel Leingang,, Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mayo Clinic was cited for accidentally burning a laboratory monkey's legs during a procedure, a violation of the Animal Welfare Act, according to an inspection report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The routine USDA inspection visit on Aug. 12 also shows the extent of Mayo Clinic's animal research facilities, about which the clinic has released little information. There were 448 animals inspected, including cats, dogs, rabbits, hamsters, goats, pigs, sheep and baboons.

During the inspection, representatives from the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service found out about injuries to a rhesus macaque, a primate species native to parts of Asia.

"An anesthetized rhesus macaque was injured by the use of overheated fluid bags for thermal support during an imaging procedure" on Jan. 9, 2014, the inspection report says.

The monkey is "fully recovered" from the incident, according to the report.

The report says the burns were on two areas of the rhesus macaque's legs, and the monkey showed signs of behavioral stress as it was healing.

The citation fell into a "miscellaneous" category under the Animal Welfare Act, according to the incident report. That section of the act says animal handling should be done as "carefully as possible in a manner that does not cause trauma, overheating, excessive cooling, behavioral stress, physical harm or unnecessary discomfort."

In a statement, Mayo Clinic called the incident "isolated," and officials reported it to the USDA voluntarily shortly after it happened. During the annual inspection in August, Mayo was formally cited, according to the statement.

"The USDA also issued accolades to Mayo for its care and treatment of the animal following the incident," the statement says.

Because of what happened to the rhesus macaque, Mayo personnel were retrained, and the research program was assigned a permanent veterinary technician, according to the statement.The clinic has accreditation from the Association for the Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International.

"Mayo Clinic makes every effort to ensure the safety and well-being of animals. Mayo uses animals in research only when necessary and always with the goal of providing improved treatment or therapies for patients," according to the statement.

Annual inspections from 2012 and 2013 did not result in any citations, according to USDA records.

Mayo had 403 total animals counted for during a February 2012 annual inspection and 415 total animals in April 2013.

Information on Mayo's animal research, its animals and its facilities has been hard to come by in recent years. But a 1998 Post-Bulletin story reported Mayo was converting a northwest Rochester warehouse into a research lab focusing on pigs, and the pigs' organs were to be studied at Mayo facilities, mostly downtown.

Much of the animal research reported on by the Post-Bulletin over the years has focused on mice or rats, which are not included under the Animal Welfare Act.

Stop Animal Exploitation Now, an activist group seeking to end the abuse of animals because of testing in laboratories, is calling for Mayo to face additional citations for under-qualified personnel and not having adequate veterinary care, the organization's co-founder Michael Budkie said.

"Anyone who is familiar with these external heat sources should know to check them before you put them on the animal," Budkie said. "This is the kind of thing that is just common sense; it should never happen."

Budkie said the group monitors USDA reports and enforcement actions, keeping an eye on research facilities across the country.

"This is the first time (Mayo Clinic) has come up on our radar," Budkie said. "No other noncompliances have been found." 

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