SAEN LogoUSDA inspection cites animal surgery errors at UI
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Contact USDA to DEMAND MAX FINE against University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Dr. Elizabeth Goldentyer, Director, USDA, Eastern Region
[email protected]
[email protected]


Please levy the MAXIMUM FINE against University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UI), for their blatant disregard of the Animal Welfare Act when their negligence killed five cows. It is unconscionable that a university that includes a veterinary college would allow non-sterile surgery to be performed and then would fail to provide adequate care, leading to unnecessary suffering and death for these cows. Their behavior should NOT be tolerated and MUST be punished to the fullest extent of the law. The time is NOW to send a clear message with stiff penalties to these renegade, negligent facilities that these behaviors will NOT be tolerated!  


USDA inspection cites animal surgery errors at UI
By Jonathan Hettinger,, September 9, 2015

URBANA Improper surgery procedure and inadequate post-procedure care may have led to the deaths of five cows on the University of Illinois campus last month, a USDA inspection report found.

The report, dated Aug. 3, said that the major abdominal surgery was performed in a prep area, rather than a surgical suite. Additionally, despite staying in the Veterinary Medicine Hospital for three days, the animals were not properly monitored. Out of six student groups, five breached proper aseptic techniques, which led their animals to develop post-operative peritonitis. This led to the death of one cow and euthanization of four more, the inspection report said.

In a response to the USDA, Lyndon Goodly, associate vice chancellor for research and director of animal resources, laid out changes the UI will make to correct the procedures:

  • Increase the number of veterinarians and vet technicians to monitor students during surgery.
  •  Student knowledge of aseptic techniques will be assessed before surgery.
  •  Veterinary faculty, staff and students will monitor animals post-operation, rather than farm staff and caretakers.
  •  Surgery will always be conducted in surgery suites.

Additionally, the procedure for when to euthanize versus when to try to save an animal will be revised. Robin Kaler, campus spokeswoman, said the university tried to save the animals before euthanizing.

"They tried to make them better. That's not something that's always done," she said.

Tanya Espinosa, a USDA spokeswoman, said the Agriculture Department conducts inspections at least once a year, though they inspect facilities with a history of noncompliance more frequently. Because the UI failed the inspection test, there will be a follow-up inspection at the discretion of the inspector, she said.

But organizations with a strong track record like the UI aren't inspected more because of a single incident of noncompliance.
Kaler said it is important for students to practice surgeries like this while in school, and gastrointestinal tract surgery carries a high risk of infection.

"It's important for students to have done this at least once before they go into the real world," Kaler said. "If you want to have vets who can treat animals, they have to have some experience in that."

Kaler said surgeries like this are often done in barns, not surgery centers, in the real world, though the UI will conduct these surgeries in a surgical suite in the future.

Michael Budkie, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!, is calling for a full investigation of the incident and up to a $100,000 fine, though the USDA said the incident, which carries no penalty, will not be further investigated. The Animal Welfare Act requires the UI be given time to fix the noncompliances.

"It is unconscionable that University of Illinois staff was not capable of insuring sterility in a surgical procedure," Budkie said in a release. "Breach of aseptic technique and failure to provide adequate post-operative care caused the unnecessary deaths of these cows."

Espinosa encourages anyone who has knowledge of a violation to let the USDA know.

"We're not at the facilities every single day. If there is a facility they believe is not in compliance, people need to let us know," she said. "We want nothing more than to come in and find no noncompliances," Espinosa said. "The most important thing is the health and wellness of animals. We want to ensure that."

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