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ABQ lab fined over monkey deaths

From Ryan Boetel, Albuquerque Journal, June 20, 2022

An Albuquerque research laboratory was fined $6,200 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in connection with the deaths of two monkeys.

Lovelace Biomedical, formerly Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, was found to have violated the Animal Welfare Act in the deaths of two macaques in 2019, according to a USDA citation and notification of penalty issued last month.

One of the monkeys died during a face-mask inhalation procedure after it wiggled its arms out of restraints and got entangled in the equipment, according to the citation.

The other macaque was found dead in its enclosure with five other monkey. The primate was dehydrated, had little to no visceral fat and an overall thin body composition. After the death, the facility raised potential compatibility issues between the same group of monkeys, according to a USDA inspection report.

Observations for compatibility are important within primate groups to prevent individual animals from being denied access to food, water or shelter by other animals, according to the inspection report. The report also identifies other administrative issues at the facility.

The fine followed a federal complaint against the Albuquerque lab by Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!, an Ohio-based nonprofit that investigates animal abuse in U.S. research facilities.

“The incidents … are not only animal care issues. They indicate a level of negligence that is extreme,” Michael Budkie, the executive director of SAEN, said. “Because if you’re not watching the primates well enough to make sure that they’re even eating or managing the inhalation procedure well enough to make sure the monkey doesn’t suffocate, then why should we believe the results?”

Officials with Lovelace Biomedical did not respond to requests for comment on Monday.

In the letter making the complaint against the facility, Budkie asked that the lab get hit with a fine in the “six-figure range.”

“It’s clear that the Lovelace facility should be penalized, because they are functioning criminally. … However, we feel the fines should have been larger,” he said. “They become just a part of the cost of doing business. The major deterrent becomes the negative public attention and the negative media attention that damages the facility’s reputation.”

Located on Kirtland Air Force Base, Lovelace Biomedical sits on 100 acres of land and has 300,000 square feet of laboratory space. The lab specializes in different pharmaceutical and biotechnology research, including gene therapies, orphan diseases, infectious diseases and neurological conditions, according to the company’s website.

It’s not the first time that federal investigators have uncovered problems at the lab. The lab was found to have violated the Animal Welfare Act numerous times over the years, according to Journal archives.

In 2018, the Albuquerque lab was part of a Volkswagon emissions scandal, during which tests were done using illegal software to cheat emissions tests.

The tests were done on macaques at the Lovelace lab.

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