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Stop Animal Exploitation Now asks for investigation into Sanford Health scientist



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

Please launch a full investigation of Sanford Health’s animal experimentation, especially incidents around the banning of an investigator from all animal use, twice. Their behavior should NOT be tolerated and MUST be punished to the fullest extent of the law.


Stop Animal Exploitation Now asks for investigation into Sanford Health scientist

From Jonathan Ellis,, July 26, 2022

An animal rights organization Tuesday filed a complaint with the United States Department of Agriculture asking for an investigation into a Sanford Research scientist.
The complaint from Stop Animal Exploitation Now was filed by the group after it obtained a document showing that privileges to perform experiments on animals by Shanta Messerli had been permanently revoked.

A letter from Sanford Research to the National Institutes of Health's Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare indicates that Messerli first had her privileges revoked in January of 2021. After an appeal to the Sanford Research Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), her privileges were restored to perform two specific experiments under direct supervision.

But the letter, signed by David Pearce, the president of innovation and research for Sanford's World Clinic, says Messerli received a subsequent report of noncompliance while conducting an experiment with funding from the Department of Defense

"After a complete review of the reported noncompliance, the IACUC revoked Dr. Messereli's (sic) ability to continue to work under the oversight and management plan," the letter says. "The IACUC received an appeal of this decision and rejected the appeal in a convened committee meeting by a majority vote."

The USDA has the authority to regulate animal research laboratories. The self-reported letter from Sanford Research to the NIH was dated May 2, 2022.

A Sanford spokesperson did not immediately respond for comment.
According to Sanford's staff biography, Messerli has a doctorate in neuroscience from Perdue University. She previously taught biology at Bridgewater State University. Her research focus at Sanford involves molecule inhibitors in breast and brain cancers.

Stop Animal Exploitation Now obtained the letter under a Freedom of Information Act request. The letter is opaque, and offers no information about what experiment Messerli was conducting, nor on what species of animal.

Michael Budkie, a co-founder of the group, said it obtains about a thousand reports a year under FOIA of laboratory research on animals. He said that if the group sees five revocations of animal experiment privileges out of a thousand, that's a lot, meaning Messerli's revocation is a rare event.
For it to happen twice is even more rare, he said.

"This is kind of a last resort," he said.

He said Sanford's report is also unusual because it doesn't include any information about what experiments were being conducted or on what type of animal. Those are additional reasons for why the group requested an investigation by USDA.

"This report wouldn't exist if it weren't a serious problem," Budkie said.

The USDA did not immediately respond. 

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