National watchdog group wants federal regulatory agency to fine Wake Forest animal research center
Media Coverage About SAEN Stop Animal Exploitation Now



Dr. Robert Gibbens
Director, Animal Welfare Operations, USDA-APHIS
[email protected] 
[email protected] 

Please levy the MAXIMUM FINE against Wake Forest University for their blatant disregard of the Animal Welfare Act which led to the deaths of a monkey and a rabbit, as well as major abuse of cats, rabbits, and sheep. Their behavior should NOT be tolerated and MUST be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

National watchdog group wants federal regulatory agency to fine Wake Forest animal research center

From Winston-Salem Journal, September 19, 2021

A national watchdog organization is urging the U.S. Agriculture Department to apply monetary penalties against Wake Forest School of Medicine’s animal-research center.

Stop Animal Exploitation NOW (SAEN) released Thursday a seven-page USDA inspection report dated Aug. 16 and a one-page letter to USDA official Dr. Elizabeth Goldentyer, who is based in Raleigh.

The group requests that the center be fined the maximum $10,000 for each cited violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act. There were no fines listed in the USDA’s report.

SAEN claimed the center should be cited for non-compliance in additional animal care categories.

“I know that your office considers major violations of the Animal Welfare Act to be very serious in nature, especially when animals die or are injured,” SAEN research analyst Stacey Ellison wrote in the letter to Goldentyer.

“Because these violations are critical and numerous, I must insist that your office institute an immediate investigation.”

Wake Forest issued a statement about the SAEN claims, saying that the medical school received a notice from the USDA on Aug. 5 about the five violations.

“Three instances were noted when research teams did not alert staff veterinarians of risks in a timely manner; there was one handling complication; and one outdoor facility that lacked adequate shade.

“In the first four instances, the events were self-identified and reported to the USDA and corrected prior to the inspection. In the last instance, the concern was addressed before the inspection team departed.”

The medical school said that “we aim to meet or exceed all federal regulatory standards, and we have implemented enhanced policies and procedures to prevent future occurrences.”

“We do not believe this inspection reflects the overall care we provide to our animals, yet we acknowledge the identified shortcomings.”

Complaint focuses on cats

The main focus of the USDA report was the use of four cats in a neuroscience project. The USDA’s Institutional Animal Care and Use committee conducted an in-person investigation July 28.

The report from USDA veterinary medical officer Mary Ann McBride cited 15 separate incidents that included “improper record-keeping, lack of documentation during anesthesia and recovery, and failure to administer appropriate post-procedural, protocol-required pain relief.”

The foremost issue determined by the committee was that a Wake Forest researcher lacked proper qualifications and training on committee-approved “protocols on the procedures, having the potential to yield significant impacts to the animals.”

Investigators found that the researcher “failed to comply with three post-procedural monitoring and care requirements: headwell cleaning frequency; appropriate body temperature care prior to return to housing enclosure after anesthesia and procedures; and post-procedural pain relief administration.”

“These protocol deviations may have resulted or did result in unnecessary discomfort, pain and distress for the cats.” Each cat recovered from the incidents.

The report said the Wake Forest program “corrected” the issues in part before the committee’s inspection because the cited researcher was no longer an employee.

SAEN said in a separate statement the departure of the employee “in no way solves these issues.”

“First, how did the situation with the cats happen in the first place? How was someone able to get away with such abuse unnoticed? Someone was clearly asleep at the wheel as far as supervising this project goes.”

Other segments

Another segment of the investigation reviewed care for a macaque that was determined to be hypothermic following a four-hour anesthesia in January.

Investigators determined that records were incomplete about the macaque’s care. The macaque was euthanized after experiencing pneumonia.

A third segment addressed the treatment of five rabbits as part of approved surgical procedures in May. A researcher initially ran out of sufficient medication for the rabbits, but those rabbits recovered.

Another rabbit was determined to have died from mechanical asphyxiation following an approved surgical procedure. The USDA said the issue was corrected by retraining of the research staff.

A fourth segment investigated the treatment of 10 sheep that were found outdoors with a minimal shaded area in 95-degree weather. None of the sheep experienced heat exhaustion, and fans were added to the area.

SAEN expressed similar lack of supervision concerns about the other incidents in its separate statement.

Prior investigations

The USDA submitted in March 2017 an investigatory report on the animal research program that determined two non-compatible primates injured themselves from fighting after being incorrectly placed in the same cage.

The same citation from the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service found that a monkey was injured by other monkeys in an outdoor setting while pens were being cleaned, and that a rabbit was euthanized after it suffered a broken rear leg while being taken from its enclosure.

In each instance, the monkeys involved made a full recovery.

SAEN also requested that the center be fined the maximum $10,000 for each incident. There was no fine listed in the USDA’s report.

In May 2016, the USDA issued four citations against the center during a routine inspection conducted in April 2016.

In December 2012, Wake Forest Baptist was fined $35,464 by the department for violations of the Animal Welfare Act in connection with the center’s animal research procedures. The center paid the fine.

One of those events was the escape of a female monkey from a research center near Clemmons in late June 2012.

The monkey roamed parts of southern Forsyth and northern Davidson counties for 11 days. It was recovered unharmed.

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