USC’s research labs accused of animal cruelty again
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Dr. Robert Gibbens
Director, Animal Welfare Operations, USDA-APHIS
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Please levy the MAXIMUM FINE against the University of Southern California for their blatant disregard of the Animal Welfare Act when their negligence inflicted excessive neck injuries on pigs. Their behavior should NOT be tolerated and MUST be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

 

USC’s research labs accused of animal cruelty again

From Cari Spencer, DailyTrojan.com, February 19, 2021

USC’s research labs face more accusations of animal cruelty, after a nonprofit watchdog group Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! obtained internal USC reports alleging that lab members performed unnecessary amputations on mice, knowingly created excessive neck wounds on pigs and overdosed mice with opioids. The University is currently in an ongoing lawsuit regarding animal cruelty accusations, filed by SAEN last year.

The nonprofit organization, which works to expose laboratory animal abuse, obtained the reports through a Freedom of Information Act early February. USC reported the violations, occurring in 2019 and 2020, in letters to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare. The letter explained that the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee voted to suspend the lab’s animal use protocol for 90 days, barred all individuals involved from accessing the animal facility and made plans to prevent future occurrences.

SAEN filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Tuesday, for the University’s “clear violation of the Animal Welfare Act.” The complaint is in regards to the lab allegedly creating nine wounds on pig necks during surgery, when the lab was only authorized to create three.

“There’s clearly no way of knowing what was in the mind of the people that did these things, but making neck injuries on pigs in what was supposed to be an experiment, in a situation where you’re not going to be able to use the information, or even a report that you did that because it violates your own protocol?” said Executive Director of SAEN Michael A. Budkie in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “I mean, this is extremely disturbing.”

The other alleged violations in the USC reports — 14 cages of mice overdosed with Buprenorphine SR and found to have surgeries performed incorrectly according to Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee protocols, as well as four adult mice with amputated ears despite lab technicians lacking approval — were not included in the complaint, as the Act does not cover rats and mice.

The complaint calls upon the U.S Department of Agriculture to issue the maximum fine allowable to USC, which is $10,000 per infraction, per animal.

The group also wrote a letter to President Carol Folt and the Board of Trustees that requested an independent investigation of USC’s animal experimentation system and claimed nothing had appeared to change since the last time SAEN contacted the University about animal abuse.

In the letter to Folt, Budkie wrote that the response from the University was “nowhere near sufficient,” and called on USC to terminate the lab members for their “heinous acts.”

“The question that has to be raised here is: was this simply gratuitous violence against these animals? And that is certainly what it appears,”Budkie said. “I’ve been working on the animal research issue on one level or another since 1986. I can count on, probably one hand, the number of times that I’ve run across information that appears to be intentional animal abuse. And now, two of those situations have occurred at USC.”

In response to the reports, USC sent a statement to the Daily Trojan asserting that the reports demonstrate the University’s commitment to the ethical and human treatment of animals in research.

“It was the university that first discovered these incidents and self-reported them to National Institutes of Health,” the statement read. “The university has since taken a number of steps, including enhanced retraining, to help ensure that they don’t reoccur.”

In June 2019, SAEN filed a lawsuit against the University for allegedly routinely violating mandatory research protocols and animal welfare laws and regulations. According to the lawsuit, USC was accused of killing baby animals by placing them in a carcass-disposal freezer while still alive, performing unauthorized surgeries and injections on animals and withholding post-operative care such as pain killers from animals — among other alleged violations. The most recent violations will be included in the ongoing lawsuit, Budkie said in an email to the Daily Trojan.

In the statement, USC also denied SAEN’s allegations in the lawsuit.

“The university is highly committed to the ethical and humane treatment of animals in research, and meets or exceeds all accrediting and regulatory standards,” the University wrote.

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