How are Primates Cared for Within Laboratories?
Violations of Federal Law
Are laboratories following laws regarding proper care of primates? This is a difficult question to answer. The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) is the only law regulating the use of animals in laboratories. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is charged with enforcing the AWA. Many of the regulations regarding the care of animals in laboratories are common to all species of animals. In other words, for the most part the regulations are the same whether we are speaking of primates or rabbits. The regulations which were derived from the Animal Welfare Act cover veterinary care, feeding, pain relief in surgery, etc. But very often the same regulation is used for all species. Therefore it is difficult to ascertain which violations pertain specifically to primates.
Additionally, many parts of the law are not specific to the type of entity being regulated. In other words things like cage size minimums, cleaning requirements, feeding requirements, etc. can be the same whether we are talking about dealers, exhibitors, or research facilities -- and the USDA does not differentiate among these violations based on the type of facility in which the violation occurred. Therefore, it is not possible to determine all of the violations of the AWA, which are specific to research facilities. Clearly, there are many more violations from research facilities than we will discuss here. What we can do is to separate out the violations relevant to regulations, which are only applicable to laboratories. And there is one area of the AWA, environmental enhancement, which is applicable to primates only.
USDA/APHIS information regarding violations of the AWA is available on the USDA website at: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ac/violations/2004violations.pdf . However, older statistics of this variety have been removed from the USDA website. This information has been posted on the SAEN website to insure public access to the data. When the statistics for the two years are compared (see Appendix D) it becomes clear that violations of the AWA by research facilities are increasing, despite the overall decrease in the use of regulated species. For 2002 the sections of the AWA regulations which are specific to laboratories (2.30, 2.31, 2.32, 2.33, 2.35, 2.36, and 2.38) were violated 1106 times. For 2004 the same sections of the AWA regulations were violated 1491 times, an increase of 385 violations (35%). The bulk of the increase in violations was in two specific areas: Veterinary Care (2.33) and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (2.31). These are areas that directly effect animals.
The violations listed in these summaries allow for approximately 1 out of every 3 labs to have a violation regarding animal care, and approximately 3 out of every 4 labs could have a violation regarding the Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee, this is the internal body that is responsible for enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act within each facility, and for the approval of experimental protocols. Clearly, many of these violations would be relevant to primates.
It is also significant to note that there were 202 separate violations of the requirements for providing environmental enhancement for primates. Many of these violations took place in research facilities since the majority of primates in captivity in the U.S. are in laboratories. The psychological well being of primates within laboratories is a major concern. Isolation has been shown to have very deleterious effects on the psychological well being of primates. Therefore, during 2000 – 2001 the USDA undertook a Housing Survey to investigate the conditions within which primates are housed. This survey showed that research facilities had a much worse record for providing socialization for primates than did either exhibitors or animal dealers. Dealers housed 89% of their animals in pair/group housing; exhibitors gave 91% of the primates in their care socialized housing. Research facilities gave only 65% socialized housing. Or, 35% of the primates in research facilities experienced some level of social isolation. However, it is important to note that many of the larger facilities which confine primates for experimentation, or provide primates to laboratories were not included in this housing survey, so the results are of limited value. Therefore, it will be useful to provide information from specific facilities.
The majority of the information presented about specific facilities is relevant to facilities that are part of the National Primate Research Center System. These facilities hold large numbers of primates, but the experimentation performed at these facilities (i.e. neural processing and addiction studies) are common to many labs across the U.S.
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Harvard University/New England National Primate Research Center
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