OHSU animal lab halts research after feds find infected ferret, other problems
Media Coverage About SAEN Stop Animal Exploitation Now

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Dr. Robert Gibbens
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Please levy the MAXIMUM FINE against Oregon Health & Science University for their blatant disregard of the Animal Welfare Act when their negligence killed a ferret. Their behavior should NOT be tolerated and MUST be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

 

OHSU animal lab halts research after feds find infected ferret, other problems

From Fedor Zarkhin, OregonLive.com, November 18, 2019

Oregon Health & Science University shut down a scientist’s ferret research in June after federal officials found violations of multiple rules meant to ensure the animals suffer as little as possible.

The one-month suspension by the university was the first time in decades that a lab was told to stop doing experiments because of animal work violations, said Vickie Jarrell, director of OHSU’s Animal Care and Use program.

“This is out of the ordinary,” Jarrell said. “I believe it is a reflection of how seriously OHSU takes the responsibility for ensuring appropriate and humane use of research animals.”

The university and federal investigators found a variety of issues with a lab that works with ferrets, mice, gerbils and marmosets, a type of monkey. The lab exposed ferrets to potential infections, used the wrong liquid when euthanizing one, failed to tell university veterinarians that a ferret was infected and failed to document training, according to federal records.

The decision to suspend the work was driven almost entirely by the university’s own findings and investigations, officials said.

The animal advocacy group Stop Animal Exploitation Now obtained a copy of a university letter about the suspension and shared it with the media Monday. The group has long fought the university’s experiments on animals, including by filing complaints with federal authorities and, in March, naming OHSU’s primate center the “Worst U.S. Primate Lab.”

SAEN spokesman Michael Budkie said the suspension was a good first step, but not enough.

The research “should not be suspended,” he said. “It should be terminated.”

The federal government has since re-inspected the lab and found that all issues have been corrected.

The goal of the lab’s research is to understand how hearing works in healthy brains, the university said, and how underlying mechanisms break down when there’s hearing loss or implant surgery. The research could lead to new treatments for hearing loss, OHSU said.

University officials said the violations federal inspectors found were either already being addressed or didn’t pose a risk to animals.

The university declined to provide the researcher’s name, citing an exemption in public records that allows OHSU to withhold the names of scientists involved in some animal research.

OHSU first took action in April, when veterinarians objected to how lab workers performed a ferret surgery. The committee that approves animal experiments asked the scientist to halt surgeries, though the person was allowed to continue other work with animals, said Kim Saunders, OHSU’s head veterinarian.

A few months after the surgery, the U.S. Department of Agriculture came to OHSU for a yearly unannounced inspection and, a week later, cited the university for mistakes during the April surgery and for new problems discovered during the inspection.

The USDA cited the university after finding a ferret with an infection where its skull was attached to a post to keep it from moving. The lab already knew that the ferret was infected, Saunders said, and was actively treating it. The USDA cited OHSU because the lab didn’t tell university veterinarians about the problem.

The agency also cited OHSU for some of the mistakes the lab made in the April ferret surgery that prompted veterinarians to complain.

The lab was cited for using a euthanasia liquid on the ferret that, while standard, was not on its approved list of euthanasia substances, Saunders said.

The USDA found the lab used “poor sterile technique” in the ferret surgery, according to the inspection report. Saunders said the lab was cited because a researcher pulled down his or her face mask so a hearing-impaired person in the room could read lips.

The results of the USDA inspection as well as the university’s own findings prompted OHSU to halt the research. After the lab work was shut down, OHSU veterinarians and one experienced lab member took over care for the approximately 15 gerbils, mice, ferrets and marmosets the researcher worked with.

“All other laboratory personnel were denied access to the animal housing facilities,” Dana Director, OHSU’s Vice President of Research, wrote in a Sept. 18 letter to the USDA’s director of Animal Welfare Operations.

The researcher committed to a nine-point correction plan on July 17 and was allowed to resume work with the animals soon after. The plan includes training, developing procedures for surgeries and maintaining necessary documentation.

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