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USDA inspection reveals neglected research animals inside UofM laboratory



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

Please LEVY a MAXIMUM FINE against the University of Memphis for their blatant disregard of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) when their negligence allowed dozens of voles and mole rats to die unnecessarily. Their behavior must NOT be tolerated and MUST be punished to the fullest extent of the law.


USDA inspection reveals neglected research animals inside UofM laboratory

From Lydian Kennin,, October 6, 2022

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A routine inspection performed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) revealed numerous violations inside a University of Memphis laboratory, where dozens of research animals were reported to have died from signs of neglect within the campus lab.

The inspection took place between Aug. 22-23 and revealed numerous protocol violations within the University of Memphis Animal Care and Use Program, which is responsible for the regulatory and veterinary oversight of all research activities involving animals at the school.

The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) is responsible for the oversight of the school’s program and oversees compliance with all applicable regulations, laws, and university policies.

The USDA found 475 rodents in the lab total, including 31 Russian dwarf hamsters, 62 naked mole-rats, 119 European common voles, and 263 Damaraland mole-rats.

Since July 19, the USDA found that there have been 15 deaths inside the lab, including animals found dead and those euthanized for medical reasons.

Before this, there were only four deaths reported since October 2021, indicating a sudden increase in neglect in recent months; however, this number does not account for a broken HVAC unit on April 1 that resulted in the overheating deaths of 12 voles.

The report reads that the lab is required to conduct daily observations on the animals, and the lab’s assistant director reported that “this is not being done and has not been done in a long time.”

In fact, the report reads that no approximate number of animals inside the lab could even be provided, and only the species of animals were listed. A description of what the animals were being used for was also not found.

The USDA found that in the lab’s 2021 annual report, the wrong species were listed as well as the incorrect number of animals.
“Accurate reporting on the annual report is important for transparency and public oversight of animal use in research,” the report reads.

The USDA said that the lab’s written protocol indicates that euthanasia is not permitted, but that same protocol goes on to list numerous euthanasia methods along with employees authorized to perform this task.

Many animals were reported to have been euthanized because of severe injury from fighting other animals, including wounds to the head and face, swollen eyes, and swollen legs.

Medical records showed that in May, a vole suffered a swollen, red, hairless left front limb, and that the attending veterinarian recommended euthanasia, but that the animal was not put down until nearly a month later. No additional records concerning the vole’s care between that time could be found, and both the attending veterinarian and associate director admitted they “could not recall” the vole at all.

The associate director said no medications could have been given to the injured vole during this time because none are kept inside the lab.

During the inspection, the associate director also said stresses in the lab likely contributed to the aggression between the animals, such as malfunctioning lights that stayed on 24 hours a day, and noise from a dehumidifier.

The USDA said both of those issues were corrected; however, deadlines were given for the lab to correct all non-compliance issues listed in the report.

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