Media Coverage About SAEN Stop Animal Exploitation Now

University of Michigan cited for mistreating animals during research


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

Please levy the MAXIMUM FINE against the University of Michigan for their blatant disregard of the Animal Welfare Act which led to seven violations in approximately two months, and took the lives of multiple animals and caused lab staff to be temporarily banned from animal use. Their behavior should NOT be tolerated and MUST be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

University of Michigan cited for mistreating animals during research

From Steve Neavling,, July 12, 2023

The violations range from a botched euthanasia on a rabbit to administering expired drugs to a calf.

A national watchdog group is calling on federal regulators to impose the harshest possible penalties against the University of Michigan for animal welfare violations related to animal research.

During inspections in March and May, the U.S. Department of Agriculture cited the university for seven violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The violations range from a botched euthanasia on a rabbit to administering expired drugs to a calf.

In a letter to USDA director of welfare operations Robert Gibbens, Stop Animal Exploitation Now! (SAEN) is urging the agency to impose the maximum penalty — a $12,722 fine for each infraction — saying “incompetent” researchers “may have caused significant suffering to animals as well as multiple deaths.

“These two inspection reports cite the University of Michigan for incidents connected to the loss of two animals, one animal who was not euthanized correctly, lab staff who were suspended from all animal use for utilizing an uncertified anesthetic machine, expired drugs which were administered, and unapproved procedures which were performed,” SAEN co-founder Michael A. Budkie said in a statement Tuesday.

In one case, the university revealed in June that it had suspended animal handlers “from performing any animal care and use activities” for a minimum of 60 days after they used an uncertified anesthesia machine while “performing survival surgeries that involved four rabbits,” according to a letter from the university’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

In April, researchers left a rat in a dirty cage and neglected the animal for four days, leaving it without food or water, according to the USDA. Inspectors said researchers also lost a baby rabbit while moving the animal to another enclosure and never found it.

“Without access to food and water which are provided by lab staff, it is likely that the infant rabbit died of either dehydration or starvation,” Budkie said in the letter to the USDA.

On March 31, a lab member botched a euthanasia on a rabbit and discovered that it was still alive the next day. According to SAEN, many animals that aren’t properly euthanized “wake up in carcass freezers.”

During the March 6 inspection, the USDA said researchers performed an unapproved surgical procedure on a pig, a calf was administered expired drugs, and lab workers failed to notify the veterinary staff of an injured rabbit.

The violations came several months after a lead researcher at UM conducted animal experiments that were deemed fraudulent. At least five publications authored by the doctor were retracted from a health journal because he appeared to falsify or fabricate data following experiments on rats.

In January, the university said the researcher, Dr. Chung Owyang, formerly a gastroenterology researcher in Michigan Medicine, was no longer employed at UM.

SAEN has called on a criminal investigation, saying the fraudulent research involved more than $5 million in grants.

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