Animal rights group pursues fine against Wash. U. over monkey, rabbit deaths
Media Coverage About SAEN Stop Animal Exploitation Now



Dr. Robert Gibbens
Director, Western Region USDA/APHIS/AC
2150 Center Ave. Building B, Mailstop 3W11
Fort Collins, CO 80526-8117
(970) 494-7478
[email protected]   


Please LEVY a MAXIMUM FINE against Washington University for their blatant disregard of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) when their negligence allowed a monkey and a rabbit to die. This behavior must NOT be tolerated and MUST be punished to the fullest extent of the law.


Animal rights group pursues fine against Wash. U. over monkey, rabbit deaths
By Emily Getzoff, Student Life, October 2, 2017

An animal rights group, Stop Animal Exploitation Now, filed a complaint with the United States Department of Agriculture Sept. 25, demanding that Washington University be fined for the death of two laboratory animals.

The animals, a monkey and a rabbit, died during separate research studies at the Washington University School of Medicine. The first death occurred in September 2016, when a rabbit that was part of a heart attack treatment study died during surgery. The second death happened in June 2017 when a macaque monkey died after an MRI scan of its brain during a study about neurodegenerative diseases.

According to a statement made to Student Life from Caroline Arbanas, assistant director of medical public affairs at the medical school, the animal deaths were due to failure to monitor the animals’ vital signs and to seek veterinary care.

“The University’s animal care and use committee determined in both instances that lab personnel did not follow some of the committee’s animal care policies and parts of the research protocols,” Arbanas wrote. “Specifically, the committee noted deficiencies in monitoring the vital signs of the animals and in record keeping and a delay in notifying the on-call veterinary staff.”

Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN) filed a complaint to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) claiming that Washington University violated the Animal Welfare Act in these instances, specifically the subsection of the act that requires adequate veterinary care for the laboratory animals. The organization demands that the University be fined $10,000 per animal, which is the maximum penalty allowed under the Animal Welfare Act.

Michael Budkie, executive director of SAEN, claims that his complaint against the University is justified.

“Anytime you are performing surgery on an animal, you obviously need to monitor them to ensure that their life signs are what they should be during a surgical procedure, and that’s precisely what was not being done here,” Budkie said, “And that’s why [the University] should be prosecuted.”

Budkie went on to explain that the mistreatment of laboratory animals is common, adding that SAEN seeks to raise awareness about the conditions in animal laboratories.

“Instances like what happened to the animals at Washington University are far too common where the animals die due to negligence on the part of laboratory staff or they die due to the protocols being ignored,” Budkie said. “The public has a right to know about what happens in animal research because, in most instances, they’re paying for it.”

SAEN’s main mission is to completely eliminate the use of animals in experimentation, as the group argues that animal research is not only unethical but has little relevance to humans.

“The information in the USDA inspection reports, in which Washington University was twice cited for violating exactly the same subsection of the Animal Welfare Act documents, were very good examples of what’s wrong within research on a very basic level,” Budkie said, “In most instances, it’s performed so shoddily that it’s essentially meaningless…it’s always highly questionable whether animal research is relevant to human beings, and, in most instances, there is virtually no connection.”

Washington University maintains its support of animal experimentation, claiming that it has been a necessary part of medical research.

“Animal research has been critical to the development of major medical advances that have saved or improved the lives of millions of people worldwide,” Arbanas wrote.

Budkie claims that the incidents involving the deaths of the animals will likely lead to the University being fined.

“In this case, I would say that the chances are very good that Washington University will be prosecuted because in two consecutive inspections they were cited for violating exactly the same code section twice, and they were cited for instances which caused the deaths of the animals in question,” Budkie said.

The University claims that the laboratory has taken action to address the concerns of the USDA and to improve the treatment of laboratory animals. These steps included retraining the researchers and laboratory personnel about animal care procedures, record keeping and the need to promptly contact veterinary staff when complications or unexpected deaths occur.

During subsequent USDA inspections, inspectors reviewed the University’s reports and related records and determined that the University promptly implemented appropriate corrective actions,” Arbanas wrote. “Washington University is grateful to the research animals that enable us to make tremendous strides toward improving human health, and we are working proactively to prevent future issues.”

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