SAEN Angry over Puny Penalty Against Pacific Biolabs

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Please tell the USDA that an Official Warning is NOT a sufficient penalty for negligently dumping a living rabbit into a body freezer.

Dr. Robert Gibbens Director, Western Region, USDA
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SAEN Angry over Puny Penalty Against Pacific Biolabs

By Henry Lee,, Friday, January 16, 2015 

A Bay Area testing laboratory violated federal law when a rabbit that was presumed dead was discovered alive in a freezer for carcasses, but only received a letter of warning by the the U.S. Department of Agriculture, angering an animal rights group.

Staffers at Pacific BioLabs in Hercules had tried to euthanize the animal, one of thousands used to test pharmaceuticals and medical devices at the company, but the rabbit wasn’t dead when it was put in the freezer, inspectors said.

In an “official warning” letter issued to the company last month, Chester Gipson, deputy administrator for animal care in the federal agency’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said Pacific BioLabs had violated federal law.

“You failed to handle (euthanize) a rabbit in a manner that did not cause behavioral stress, physical harm, unnecessary discomfort or excessive cooling,” Gipson wrote.
The letter said that any further violation could result in a civil penalty, criminal prosecution or other sanctions.

The incident was uncovered during a routine inspection of the company in August.

The rabbit’s ultimate fate was unclear.

Inspectors ordered Pacific BioLabs to take steps to prevent a repeat of the rabbit freezing, but did not cite the company.

A national animal rights group asked the USDA to go further, saying in letter to the agency that the lab caused potential pain and suffering to the frozen rabbit and should be fined $10,000.

“You would think that laboratory staff who were in any way qualified for what they were doing could tell if a rabbit was alive or dead before they put the animal in the freezer,” said Michael Budkie, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now.
Budkie called the government’s letter a “paper slap on the wrist.”

Budkie said euthanasia is typically done with an overdose of an injectable anesthetic.
The company has declined to comment.

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