Animal group accuses Augusta University of deaths, abuse
Media Coverage About SAEN Stop Animal Exploitation Now


Dr. Robert Gibbens
Director, Western Region, USDA
[email protected] 
[email protected] 

Please levy the MAXIMUM FINE against Augusta University for their blatant disregard of the Animal Welfare Act when their negligence allowed primates to escape resulting in injuries and their IACUC failed to supervise experimentation properly. Their behavior should NOT be tolerated and MUST be punished to the fullest extent of the law.


Animal group accuses Augusta University of deaths, abuse

From Joe Hotchkiss, Augusta Chronicle, March 26, 2021

Augusta University restated its commitment to laboratory-animal safety Thursday after a watchdog group accused human negligence at the university for causing the deaths and injuries of dozens of animals dating to 2019.

The organization Stop Animal Exploitation Now called on the university to launch an independent investigation into the school’s animal experimentation procedures and to "immediately terminate" all staff members found responsible for the deaths and abuse.

AU, of which the Medical College of Georgia is a part, maintains a robust research sector that often relies on the use of animal subjects during experiments.

"Augusta University insists on the humane treatment of every animal in our care," the school said in a statement responding to the group. "We do not tolerate abuse or neglect of animals and will continue to adhere to the highest ethical, legal and scientific standards. Augusta University’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee ensures compliance with the Animal Welfare Act and other state and federal regulations governing the use of animals in research."

SAEN released several documents, shown printed on AU letterhead, that they say document its assertions. AU did not immediately verify whether the documents provided by SAEN are authentic.

A report dated July 26, 2019, detailed an incident in which a research investigator rendered an animal unconscious before a procedure by forcefully throwing it against a countertop.

"Caretaker was in the room changing cages. A research investigator entered the animal room at 10:26 a.m. removed a cage of mice and took them to the cage change station. He took one mouse out, held the mouse by its tail and forcefully hit the mouse flat on the cage change station," Regents Professor Ruth Harris wrote on behalf of the school’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. The committee is federally mandated at research institutions to help assure the humane and ethical treatment of animals.

The unnamed research investigator in the report then performed a cervical dislocation on the mouse as part of an experiment.

SAEN co-founder Michael A. Budkie, in a letter dated Wednesday to AU President Brooks Keel, said a carbon-dioxide chamber is used more typically to render lab mice unconscious before executing cervical dislocations.

“Not only was the mouse beaten into the tabletop, but there is no assurance that this animal was unconscious when the neck was broken,” Budkie said.

A document dated last April 29 described an incident 10 days earlier in which 18 rats and 29 mice died from hypothermia after a pneumatic compressor failed and “an alarm system failed to warn university staff of the excessive temperatures.”

A report dated Jan. 11 related a Dec. 14 incident in which nine mice were found dead of apparent hyperthermia. A temperature log of the room said it reached 104 degrees Dec. 13.

A document dated Aug. 30, 2019, mentioned eight mice in two cages “with no water in the water bottles; one cage had two dead animals.”

A document dated Nov. 3 detailed several incidents earlier in the year of finding blood on the bedding of lab mice who were not left properly attended after procedures to snip their tails.

Each document included the methods with which AU addressed or corrected each incident.

The group also said it filed an official complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture alleging “multiple violations” of the Animal Welfare Act. SAEN included what appeared to be a copy of a citation report citing “critical” infractions from a USDA inspection conducted at AU last Aug. 24.

The report referred to minutes from a 2019 meeting that described a rhesus macaque that escaped from his cage and bit another monkey’s finger, fracturing it.

“This is a serious violation not only because an animal was injured, but because it obviously demonstrates incompetence on the part of Augusta University staff which is what allowed the escape to occur in the first place,” Budkie wrote to USDA region director Dr. Robert Gibbens.

"Handling of all animals shall be done as carefully as possible in a manner that does not cause trauma or physical harm," USDA veterinary medical officer Stephanie Maynard wrote in the citation. "This item was corrected prior to this inspection. Corrective actions and preventative measures were implemented."

The citation also mentioned an insufficient degree of detail to which lab deficiencies were identified and corrected within allotted times.

The citation also said that a rationale was not immediately provided for using what could have been "an unnecessary amount of animals” to be used in specific experiments. That was expected to be corrected by last Dec. 1, according to the citation.

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