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Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!
S. A. E. N.
"Exposing the truth to wipe out animal experimentation"

Articles and Reports

Breaking the Law:
Animal Care in U.S. Labs
By Michael A. Budkie, A.H.T., Executive Director,
Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!
513-575-5517 saen@saenonline.org  

Analysis & Conclusions

The statistics discussed in this report are very alarming. The fact that 25 labs could account for 559 violations of federal regulations with respect to the treatment of animals in labs is scandalous. Many of these labs are large, internationally-known facilities which receive hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government for the performance of animal experimentation. According to our statistics (in another report) the number 2, 3, 5 & 8 labs in the U.S. for receiving funding by the National Institutes of Health are in this group.

The majority of these labs violated the law regarding basic issues like veterinary care. In many instances animals were directly affected by these violations which even led directly to animal deaths. The consistent pattern of violations in the area of Institutional Animal Care & Use Committees indicates that these labs are incapable of enforcing regulations on their own in any meaningful way. We must begin to wonder if these labs actually have any interest in following the Animal Welfare Act.

The overwhelming pattern of violations exhibited in these facilities raises an obvious question: “Is the USDA effective in enforcing the Animal Welfare Act?” The violation patterns in this report suggest that the USDA is not effective in regulating labs. While specific violations are not usually repeated, labs continue to have substantial violations over extended periods of time. Very often these violations occur repeatedly in the same categories, violating the same regulations.

On March 4th, 2003 the University of Connecticut (Storrs) was fined $129,000 for violating the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) – for infractions which occurred before 3/12/01. The date of the first USDA inspection document used as a basis for this report is 5/31/01 – which follows the period of violations for which the University of Connecticut was fined. In other words, the University of Connecticut had 43 violations of the AWA in the period immediately following the levying of a $129,000 fine by the USDA for violating the Animal Welfare Act. Apparently the fine was insufficient to bring this lab into compliance.

It is also significant to note that the facility with the worst record in terms of numbers of violations, most repeat and direct violations, and the highest numbers of violations in areas of IACUC, and Veterinary Care –– the University of California, San Francisco -- has received only a $2000 fine in recent years. The majority of the violations discussed in this report occurred after the fine was issued, and according to a USDA official UCSF is again under investigation. It is apparent that the fine was far too small to be considered significant enough to cause any changes. For a facility that receives over $160,000,000 from the National Institutes of Health for the performance of animal experiments, a $2000 fine is little more than pocket change.

Other significant findings involve several labs. It is very odd that a tiny lab, Mount Ida College (who reports less than 100 animals used annually), would come in 11th in terms of AWA violations, ahead of labs that use as many as 19,000 animals. The

concept that a lab this small could have 25 violations in a three year period is amazing. It is also surprising that Mt. Ida’s neighbor in Massachusetts (UMASS, Amherst) was fined $6215, while receiving fewer violations, yet Mt. Ida has not been fined.

It is also significant to note that certain situations have not resulted in more substantial reactions from the USDA. For example, when a dog is killed by accidentally running the animal through a cage washer substantial enforcement actions should result. The USDA official who inspected Pfizer after this occurrence simply noted the death of the animal and said that procedures need to be put into place to prevent the repetition of such an occurrence. This was a grossly insufficient response to the death of an animal caused by sheer negligence.

It is the opinion of this author that the USDA typically reacts too slowly to violations of the Animal Welfare Act. In some instances violations are allowed to continue for an extended period before any regulatory enforcement actions are taken. And when enforcement actions are taken they are too insignificant to have any meaningful impact. Fines in the thousands of dollars for institutions which receive income in the hundreds of millions from animal research are almost laughable.

During 1995 the USDA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) performed an audit of the Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service with regard to enforcement of the animal Welfare act. The findings of this audit were:

“APHIS does not have the authority, under current legislation, to effectively enforce the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act. For Instance, the agency cannot terminate or refuse to renew licenses or registrations in cases where serious or repeat violations occur (such as the use of animals in unnecessary experiments, or failure to treat diseases or wounds). In addition, APHIS cannot assess monetary penalties for violations unless the violator agrees to pay them, and penalties are often so low that violators merely regard them as part of the cost of doing business.”

It does not appear that this situation has changed. The OIG report recommended that APHIS initiate legislation to extend its enforcement powers. This course of action has not been followed, and as a result APHIS ability to enforce the AWA has not changed in any way. It is quite apparent that for most labs USDA fines and inspections are still just a part of doing business.

When the current enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act is examined we must begin to wonder if the Animal Welfare Act was designed for purposes other than the protection of animals, or if the implementation of this legislation has been much less than would have been faithful to its original purpose. If the legislation is not protecting animals (clearly it is not), then what does it actually accomplish? It allows laboratories to say that they are regulated. In other words, the Animal Welfare Act (however well intended) primarily gives animal laboratories the ability to say that since they are inspected, and supervised, so conditions within the facilities must be adequate. Laws have been passed, inspectors are in place, fines are even paid, therefore the system is working and needs no changes.

The inspection reports examined for the assembly of this report clearly indicate that this is not the case. Dogs, cats, primates, pigs, and animals of many other species are going without veterinary care, without food and water, and are suffering needlessly.

It is also worthy of note that nowhere in the USDA documents used to assemble this report were any mentions of violations of the requirements of the AWA regarding the prevention of unnecessary duplication of research mentioned. This is particularly alarming since several labs examined in this report (Johns Hopkins, Emory, Northwestern, Yale, Harvard, etc.) are engaged in two areas of experimentation (drug addiction and brain mapping) in primates which are among the most duplicated areas of experimentation currently being conducted.

Also, there are very few references to issues concerning the performance of potentially painful or stressful experimentation without benefit of anesthesia. This is another area of concern, as it is relevant to many of the same laboratories. The same areas of experimentation listed above (i.e. brain mapping and drug addiction) often fit into this category. Harvard Medical School and Emory University, which collectively reported experimenting on 3927 primates during 2001, reported only 11 primates experiencing pain during experimentation. This number is so low as to seem nonsensical.

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