SAEN LogoPrinceton Cited by Feds for Escaped Lab Monkeys
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U. accused of violating Animal Welfare Act in marmoset monkey incident
By Seth Augenstein,, May 14, 2015

A laboratory at Princeton University that experiments on marmosets was cited by federal authorities following an animal escape and fight in December, the school announced.

The single citation was for failing to secure a primary enclosure – but the Ivy League school’s animal research program has been accused of other improprieties in recent years.

Two marmosets escaped their cages in the incident. One was recaptured quickly – but the second fought with a marmoset in another cage, and both were injured. Both were given medical attention, and recovered without complications, Princeton’s research program announced.

The university reported the incident to the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, as per federal policy.

The follow-up investigation was conducted by U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors on May 4 and 5. They found bolstered and more-secure cages – and no further noncompliance, according to the school.

The federal agency is expected to release a report later this month, they added. The federal agency could not be reached for comment.

The group Stop Animal Exploitation now had filed a complaint last month over the December incident, according to the school’s newspaper, The Daily Princetonian.

“The documentation that we have obtained relevant to Princeton indicates that there is a serious level of negligence there,” Michael Budkie, SAEN’s executive director, told the newspaper. “If laboratories like Princeton can’t accomplish very basic requirements like keeping animals in the cages, then why should we believe they can do science?”

The animal-research program at the school has been accused of improprieties in the past.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals filed a complaint last July accusing neurobiology researchers of sticking a primate inside a plastic exercise ball and rolling it down a hallway for “amusement.” However, a school investigation found no proof it ever happened. Alka Chandna, the senior laboratory oversight specialist for PETA, said the group counts 23 violations of the Animal Welfare Act at Princeton labs since 2009. She said they've been violations that should be apparent to "anyone who is concerned about the welfare of animals, or who has half a heart."

"We've been monitoring them since they've had a lot of violations," Chandna said.

In 2011, the USDA issued Princeton animal research facilities six citations for violations including failing to give primates water for 24 hours, according to reports.

In 2010, the labs were also accused of 11 procedural violations during a routine inspection.

The school said their animal-research program remains a responsible and important contributor to science at the school, officials said in this week’s statement.

“Princeton’s laboratory animal research program contributes significantly to advancing the frontiers of knowledge and to saving and prolonging the lives of human beings (and animals),” the school said. “It does so while upholding the highest standards of regulatory compliance of humane and responsible treatment of animals.” 

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