UF reports detail more research animal mistreatment
Media Coverage About SAEN Stop Animal Exploitation Now


W. Kent Fuchs, President,
University of Florida
Via Email: [email protected] 

President Fuchs,

You must immediately terminate all animal use privileges for UF staff who have violated any federal regulations regarding use of animals in laboratories, as well as launching an independent investigation of all UF violations of federal regulations in animal laboratories. You must NOT allow the ongoing abuses of animals which have seen rats set on fire and mice victimized in experiments involving traumatic brain injuries to continue.


UF reports detail more research animal mistreatment

From Cindy Swirko, Gainesville.com, March 20, 2021

The use of a wrong procedure to cause traumatic brain injuries in mice and the accidental burning of a rat’s face were among the reports of mistreatment of research animals filed by the University of Florida.

Stop Animal Exploitation Now, or SAEN, monitors the reports, which are required for federal research funding, and contends that UF’s record is troubling.

“There are several things that are unique and very disturbing connected to the University of Florida,” said SAEN’s Michael Budkie. “We do not see animals being set on fire. Having it happen twice in approximately a year is extremely disturbing.”

The Sun requested to speak with staffers at UF who could explain how animals are acquired and managed for experimentation, who oversees the use of animals including their care and other aspects.

UF administrators refused. Instead spokeswoman Hessy Fernandez sent a statement that read in part, “The University of Florida is committed to the ethical use of animals in its pursuit of medical advances that benefit both humans and animals.”

Fernandez would not respond further to a follow-up email and did not return two voice messages left by The Sun.

Meanwhile, research nationwide is continuing on evolving technologies that use human tissue in experiments. It provides results that are more accurate for treatments and medicines without animal experimentation.

Among the leaders is Harvard’s Wyss Institute and its Human Organs on Chips program in which devices with minute amounts of a fluid are lined with human cells for drug development, disease modeling and personalized medicine.

“Clinical studies take years to complete and testing a single compound can cost more than $2 billion. Meanwhile, innumerable animal lives are lost, and the process often fails to predict human responses because traditional animal models often do not accurately mimic human pathophysiology,” the Wyss website states. “For these reasons, there is a broad need for alternative ways to model human diseases in vitro in order to accelerate the development of new drugs and advance personalized medicine.”

Labs that get federal money for research are required to report “adverse events” involving animals such as rats, mice, birds and cold-blooded species to the National Institutes of Health.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture regulates the care of warm-blooded vertebrates used in research under the Animal Welfare Act.

Most of the latest reports involve rats and mice. Chickens and axolotls — salamanders often used in research on limb regeneration — were also among the animals.

On Oct. 20 closed-head traumatic brain injury was induced on 25 mice, three of which showed adverse clinical signs, one report stated.

“Early investigation by veterinary staff discovered possible equipment malfunctioning and protocol deviations which led to increased pain and distress,” the report said.

The protocol deviations included using a device that was not supposed to be used for the impacts to the heads of the mice. Other protocol violations were noted as well.

On Dec. 6, lab staff used a cautery pen on a rat’s head to stop bleeding. It ignited a flame that singed fur on the rat’s face and burnt its whiskers. The rat was euthanized the next day.

On July 1, 68 chicks were hatched. By July 6, 29 of them died. The majority of the dead were found under a heating element that got too hot.

Other reports indicate failure to adequately care for the animals, such as not providing enough food and water or not properly monitoring the animals after the experiments.

UF has a history of animal experimentation gone awry.

The Sun in 2015 reported on a beagle named Colin, who lived in UF's kennels since he was 2 months old.

Colin had all his teeth removed, gotten into fights with other dogs, suffered from anxiety and was forced to wear a specially designed shirt for months at a time to help with the stress of living in enclosed, cramped quarters.

Colin was born predisposed to a deadly disease that prevents the body from using sugar stored in the body. Researchers subjected the dog to gene therapy for four years to combat the disease, which occurs in one in every 100,000 humans.

During that time, Colin developed serious kidney and bladder infections, a prostate condition, conjunctivitis and chronic vomiting.

In 2019 SAEN filed a federal complaint against UF for several incidents.

Among them was a goat that broke its neck while caught in a narrow fence and another rat’s face burned by a cautery pen.

The group in 2014 got UF reports of failure to give proper prescribed treatment to a dog diagnosed with glaucoma, allowing a rabbit to accidentally strangle itself in its cage and failing to properly care for nearly two dozen goats that died or were euthanized after suffering from severe anemia.

The complaints also mention that UF previously was cited for the death of a puppy because veterinary staff didn't bottle-feed it overnight.

Scientists back use of animals in studies

Many scientists and organizations such as the Foundation for Biomedical Research say that the use of animals is necessary to develop cures for disease and medicines for both people and animals.

“Almost every drug, treatment, medical device, diagnostic tool or cure we have today was developed with the help of lab animals,” Fernandez said in UF’s statement. “UF Animal Care Services is staffed by veterinary professionals who are committed to providing humane, high-quality animal care.”

Yet a growing field of technology — typically known as organs-on-chips or humans-on-chips — is bypassing animal experimentation and has the promise of better results.

For instance, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has funded research to test technology that creates human organ systems on micro-engineered chips about the size of an AA battery.

Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are also working on the chips.

“Developing new prescription drugs and antidotes to toxins currently relies extensively on animal testing in the early stages,” an article from the lab states. “That is not only expensive and time consuming, but it can also give scientists inaccurate data about how humans will respond to such agents.”

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