Animal rights group raps UMass Medical School on rat testing
Media Coverage About SAEN Stop Animal Exploitation Now



Dr. Michael F. Collins, Chancellor,
University of Massachusetts, Medical School

[email protected]

Dr. Collins,

To protect the reputation of the University of Massachusetts, and to prevent further animal abuse, you must ban all staff from using animals who were connected to Dr. Steven B. Bird's project in which rats were subjected to unapproved experimental procedures including electric shock, as well as unauthorized surgeries. Incidents such as these which not only abuse animals but also flout both federal and university authority must not be tolerated. Lab staff who participated in these events or were responsible for these experiments must never use animals again!


Animal rights group raps UMass Medical School on rat testing
By Brad Petrishen, Telegram & Gazette, July 10, 2017

WORCESTER – An Ohio-based animal rights group Monday called on UMass Medical School to permanently ban one of its doctors from conducting animal research after the school self-reported to the federal government that one of the doctor’s researchers was fired after “serious noncompliance” with regulations during rat testing.

The school apologized Monday for the violations and said it had revised its policies as a result. The National Institutes of Health, which funded the $2.9 million, multiyear research project in which the infractions arose, said Monday the school responded appropriately.

The violations took place in 2016 during a research project by UMass Dr. Steven B. Bird aimed at studying how to mitigate the toxic effects of pesticides in humans after accidental poisoning or chemical warfare.

Dr. Bird’s researcher, whose name was not in documents released by the animal rights group and who UMass declined to name, failed to properly monitor paralyzed rats, did not properly report rat deaths, performed electronic shock and surgery on rats without approval, and did not document giving rats pain medication, records generated by UMass show. The researcher also allowed rats being tested to fall into a biohazard bin containing blood and feces.

In explaining himself after the problems were discovered, Dr. Bird told the school he was “overwhelmed” with his emergency room duties and also said his researcher “has difficulty understanding English limiting his ability to follow instructions and other communications,” documents show.

UMass suspended testing after the revelations, then allowed them to continue on a number of conditions, including that the researcher be thoroughly retrained and pre-approved before continuing surgeries.
Yet the school months later self-reported that the researcher, without Dr. Bird’s knowledge, conducted two surgeries in which rats died, despite not yet completing his training or having his surgical privileges reinstated.

″(Dr. Bird) voluntary terminated his vertebrae animal studies and terminated the postdoctoral fellow’s employment,” UMass wrote in a letter to NIH on Jan. 25. It noted that it revoked Dr. Bird’s authority to conduct vertebrae animal studies and prohibited him from re-applying for one year.
Michael A. Budkie, co-founder of Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!, the group that publicized the documents, called Monday for UMass to make a “public statement of no tolerance” for such violations by banning Dr. Bird from animal research for life.

Dr. Bird, an emergency medicine specialist licensed since 2000 with no record of state discipline, deferred comment on the matter to the medical school.

See also:

Return to Media Coverage