Group Criticizes Pitt's Use of Laboratory Animals
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
By Anita Srikameswaran, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
An animal rights group yesterday said the University
of Pittsburgh is one of the 10 worst offenders for violating federal
regulations regarding laboratory animals.
The Cincinnati-based Stop Animal Exploitation NOW
group based its conclusion on a review of three years of U.S. Department
of Agriculture inspection reports for 25 labs across the country.
Between 2000 and 2003, Pitt labs were cited for 27
violations by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service,
putting the university ninth on the group's list of worst offenders.
According to the group, Pitt has 2,341 regulated research animals.
Pitt spokesman John Fedele said the number of lab
animals varies, but is in the thousands. He added that 95 percent of
them are rodents or fish.
Infractions cited in APHIS inspection reports included
dirty air vents and inappropriate storage of food.
In one protocol cited by the group's executive
director, Michael Budkie, rabbits were to be restrained while their
limbs were kept constantly moving for 30 days. The federal inspector
said the rabbits needed to be monitored continuously during the
experiment, rather than every other day.
Fedele said the rabbit protocol was never performed as
first proposed, which allowed limb movement for "up to" 30 days. The
duration of the experiment was changed to 96 hours.
The university, like other research centers, has an
oversight committee charged with ensuring that lab animals are treated
humanely and that experiments are appropriate.
The University of California at San Francisco, which
has 3,365 animals and was cited by inspectors 51 times, is at the top of
Budkie's list of worst offenders. Johns Hopkins University, the
University of Pennsylvania and Charles River Labs are also in the top
Darby Holladay, spokesman for APHIS, said compliance
with animal protection regulations is very good and that the agency has
the enforcement power to get problems corrected. He added that Budkie's
group and others like it aim to eliminate all animal research.
Fines can be levied for serious violations, but Pitt
hasn't been fined since 1987.