Federal regulators have accused Oregon Health & Science University of violating federal animal welfare laws.
The university was given a critical violation by the US Department of Agriculture following a December 6 attack.2021 inspection at one of OHSU’s animal research laboratories.
According to the complaint, a Mongolian gerbil died of starvation during an experiment in which a group of gerbils had their food rationed. The animals were part of a hearing loss study and were given regulated access to food as part of a series of behavioral tests for food rewards.
“A verbal request for services by a laboratory staff member to the livestock supervisor was not communicated to the livestock technician responsible for feeding in the room,” notes an inspection report from the USDA. “As a result, five animals did not receive their daily ration on October 2, 2021. The problem was identified on October 3, 2021 and the animals were immediately fed. In addition, the veterinarian was notified and performed a physical examination. At the facility, four of the five gerbils were lively and alert. One animal, however, presented as lethargic and received fluids from the vet.
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The inspector noted that the condition of the animals had improved, but this same animal quickly became lethargic again and despite veterinary interventions, the animal died on October 4th.
“Animals should be fed as needed to ensure their health and comfort. These animals were subject to an IACUC-approved protocol outlining how food should be provided and the amount of daily ration to be given to each animal” , said the inspector, the location of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.
The violation is the latest in a string of recent incidents citing inadequate technician oversight and lack of veterinary care at OHSU animal testing labs. It is the fourth critical breach in two years and the 17th breach in four years, critics note.
Violations include incidents in which two lab monkeys were scalded to death after being accidentally placed in a high-temperature cage washer, while another primate was injured after being caught in a drain cover and two others were euthanized after developing brain infections due to delayed veterinary care. series of experiments. In another incident, prairie voles died of dehydration when left without water.
The multitude of incidents has led animal rights activists to label the research university as the worst offender of animal rights violations in the country.
OHSU officials say it takes animal care seriously and relies on regular independent inspections.
“OHSU understands and takes responsibility for providing compassionate, state-of-the-art health and veterinary care that comes with the privilege of working with animals,” an OHSU statement read. “We employ hundreds of dedicated staff who care deeply about the animals in our care and work around the clock to ensure humane and respectful treatment. Whenever there is a problem or an unexpected event involving these animals , it deeply upsets us all.”
The university emphasizes annual reviews of its laboratories by government agencies and its voluntary participation in the Association for the Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International, AAALAC.
Animal welfare advocates say it all makes no sense if repeated violations occur.
Stop Animal Exploitation Now!, an Ohio-based watchdog group that monitors the nation’s research facilities for illegal activity and animal abuse, filed a federal complaint against OHSU with the U.S. Department of Agriculture , urging the agency to make an example of OHSU with tougher penalties .
“These violations demonstrate the most basic failures that could possibly occur in a laboratory,” the complaint states. “OHSU has exceeded the level of a normal prosecution. … Dozens of animals have died or been injured. Dozens of violations have occurred.”
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals also said OHSU animal research should be stopped.
“Our government must end the hundreds of millions of dollars in grants that flow into OHSU each year and instead support research that is non-animal and relevant to humans,” said PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo.