Complaint filed against Vanderbilt for negligent death of two research pigs

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Please contact the USDA to insist that Vanderbilt University receive the largest fine allowable under the Animal Welfare Act for the negligence which caused two pigs to be unnecessarily injured by radiation.

Dr. Elizabeth Goldentyer, Director, USDA, Eastern
Region 920 Main Campus Drive, Suite 2000
Raleigh, NC 27606
[email protected]
[email protected]

Complaint filed against Vanderbilt for negligent death of two research pigs

By Kelly Halom,, Wednesday, February 11, 2015 

An Ohio-based group that works to end the abuse of animals in laboratories, Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN), has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) against Vanderbilt University for the negligent radiation of two pigs that resulted in death. The USDA oversees the treatment of research animals.

According to SAEN, Vanderbilt self-reported the incidents to the National Institutes of Health and suspended the experiment protocol in January of 2014 following the deaths of two pigs after multiple doses of radiation.

The self-report stated that the first pig was euthanized due to failing health and “upon necropsy, the gross and histologic views of the internal organs showed a pattern of radiation fibrosis and extensive damage.”

The second pig was also reported as having internal radiation damage.

According to SAEN, the incidents violate the Animal Welfare Act. Though the incidents were self-reported, SAEN lodged the report with the USDA because the federal agency has the power to levy heavy penalties against research institutions for mistreatment of animals and violations of federal laws.

In a letter to the USDA this week, Executive Director of SAEN Michael Budkie requested that the USDA investigate the deaths and institute the largest fine allowable by law, which is $10,000 per infraction/per animal.

“Clearly, these pigs suffered severe pain and distress due to the internal damage caused by the irradiation,” Budkie said.

First-year student Carsen Smith, who has worked with animal welfare issues, said that this incident is heartbreaking and that she hopes the Vanderbilt medical and research community will explore all experimental routes that do not require animal testing before choosing to use such measures.

“Considering recent USDA inspection reports claiming other ethical issues in animal-related studies, I hope the Vanderbilt scientific community takes it upon itself to review current practices and potentially seek advice from animal welfare professionals,” Smith said.

According to John Howser, assistant vice chancellor for News & Communications for Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the research was intended to identify safer ways to deliver radiation treatments to humans without damaging surrounding skin. More than 500,000 cancer patients are treated with radiotherapy each year in the United States. Howser also said that Vanderbilt is committed to the safety and well-being of animals used in research.

“Vanderbilt self-reported this event to the National Institutes of Health and remains steadfastly committed to the very highest standards for all research protocols,” Howser said.

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