Monkey strangled at Sorrento Valley research lab, USDA complaint alleges
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Dr. Robert Gibbens
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Please levy the MAXIMUM FINE against BTS Research for their blatant disregard of the Animal Welfare Act when their negligence killed one monkey and abused others. Their behavior should NOT be tolerated and MUST be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

 

Monkey strangled at Sorrento Valley research lab, USDA complaint alleges

From Jeff McDonald, SanDiegoUnionTribune.com, April 30, 2020

A research monkey was found strangled to death at a Sorrento Valley laboratory nearly two years ago, according to a federal complaint announced Wednesday, and the company says the animal may have been killed by his cage mate.

BTS Research, which uses mice, primates and other animals to conduct a variety of drug and therapy testing, disclosed in an internal September 2018 report that the monkey was found dead inside his cage when staff returned to the lab on a Sunday morning in late August.

“The squeeze forward was activated to full range and the animal was trapped between the squeeze bar and door,” said the report, which was obtained by the animal rights group Stop Animal Exploitation Now and sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The “squeeze forward” is a lever that mechanically draws the rear side of a cage nearer to the front so researchers can catch the animal, the laboratory said.

“Necropsy showed bruising on the legs and lower abdomen from trying to free himself, otherwise no significant findings that would have caused death,” added the report, much of which was redacted.

The USDA, which among its many duties is responsible for regulating animal testing labs, said it takes all animal complaints seriously. A spokesman declined to respond to specific questions about the case, beyond saying the cause of death is better described as asphyxiation rather than strangulation.

The documentation released Wednesday by Stop Animal Exploitation Now included findings from a USDA inspection report on the incident dated in April 2019.

“The facility promptly instituted preventative measures, including the use of chains/ locks to prevent inadvertent activation or animal manipulation of squeeze mechanisms, and reminding staff to check the squeeze mechanisms several times a day,” the inspector wrote.

“Primary enclosures must be constructed and maintained so that they protect the nonhuman primates from injury,” the USDA directed.

BTS Research issued a statement Wednesday saying the company takes pride in its research and maintains the highest standards across the industry. It also said the primate may have been killed by another monkey inside the shared cage.

“Even when unfortunate incidents happen such as the one with the monkey that was found dead due to his mate actuating the pull mechanism of the cage, BTS Research followed the regulations set forth by the USDA and self-reported the incident,” the lab said in its statement.

“Someone that has never personally worked with monkeys may not understand monkeys’ strength and ability to push the squeezing mechanism against the other cage mate,” the company said. “Once the squeeze mechanism was activated, it locks into place trapping the animal.”

The BTS Research statement said the complaint to federal regulators is unfounded.

“We see this as a ridiculous attempt to create fault for something that was significantly investigated by the USDA and determined to be accidental,” the company said.

The company also downplayed a prior violation issued by USDA inspectors, who previously found improper settings on chairs used to hold the animals during research practices.

“The chair was set to accommodate the natural posture of the monkeys and to facilitate a quick restraint and sample collection,” BTS Research said. “The USDA inspector felt that the floor of the chair needed to be raised slightly, which was immediately remedied.”

The deceased monkey, a cynomolgus macaque known as Animal 2003, was part of an unspecified study. The species, which primarily inhabits Southeast Asia, is commonly used in biomedical research because its genome is similar to humans.

The laboratory website says its scientists have extensive experience in drug discovery and academic research environments to fight some of the most pervasive diseases that humans can get.

“Our therapeutic areas of expertise and proficiency include inflammation and autoimmunity, oncology and metabolic disorders with acute and chronic assessments of biologics, small molecules, natural products and medical devices in custom-designed studies,” the website states.

The federal complaint filed by Stop Animal Exploitation Now accuses the Sorrento Valley lab of providing inadequate veterinary care, engaging in improper animal handling and having unqualified personnel on staff.

“What are you waiting for?” the group’s co-founder, Michael Budkie, asked the USDA in a press release. “Must more primates be killed or abused before the USDA takes action?”

The animal advocacy group is urging the USDA to impose the maximum penalty on BTS Research —$10,000 per violation, per animal.

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