NEWS: Animal treatment in labs up to par, Pitt says
By BRENDA MILLER
June 02, 2004
Pitt officials asserted that they are currently in
accord with all state regulations concerning animal welfare after Stop
Animal Exploitation Now, an Ohio-based animal rights organization,
accused the University of committing 27 state-regulation violations.
According to SAEN, the University research laboratory
has violated the Animal Welfare Act, a series of laws set by the United
States Department of Agriculture along with the Animal and Plant Health
SAEN released a report, titled "Breaking the Law:
Animal Care in U.S. Labs," which looked at animal rights violations
during the past three years at 25 research laboratories. Pitt was ranked
as having the ninth highest number of violations.
"Corrective action in relation to these infractions
detailed by SAEN was promptly taken," the University said in a response
statement. The response went on to say that the University has not been
fined by the federal government regarding its animal research programs
Michael Budkie, executive director of SAEN and author
of the report, said information gathered from USDA inspection reports
described violations that included the use of expired drugs, housing of
35-inch primates in 32-inch cages and unnecessary isolation of
disease-free primates, among others.
In May 2003, a USDA report discovered that an
experiment that restricted and controlled the water intake of four
primates failed to recognize "rudimentary signs of dehydration."
According to the report, the problem was corrected immediately, though
it remains a major concern of SAEN.
Dr. Randy Juhl, vice chancellor of research conduct
and compliance, argued that most of the information SAEN gathered was
from the University's own reports.
"This is a good example of how an organization can use
a little fact and twist it to serve their particular purpose," he said.
"[SAEN's] goal is to have no animal experimentations,"
he said. "Our goal is to have animal experimentations within the rules
and regulation to make medical advances."
Juhl said the advances made by the University labs,
such as the polio vaccine and progress in organ transplantation and
cardiopulmonary resuscitation, relied heavily on animal experimentation.
"It's important to keep in context the importance of
animal subjects," he said.
"If you count the little violations, 27 is not a
number that concerns me at all, considering there are 1,000 people
working on these things," he added. "We don't consider [the violations]
trivial. We take care of them and fix them."
Budkie said 27 violations in three years is a number
that should not be taken lightly. Though the report only mentioned 25
research facilities while 57 were actually examined, many had no
violations at all, he said.
SAEN reported that during the same three-year period,
Pitt had 2,341 regulated animals, while Pfizer, a pharmaceutical
corporation, had 19,106 regulated animals but only 12 violations. Wake
Forest, which was ranked last of the 25 labs, had 2,296 animals and
"The Animal Welfare Act is minimal standards, and
[Pitt] can't even follow those when rats, birds, mice and fish are not
even covered," said Candace Zawoiski, a member of the Voices of Animal
Liberation group in Pittsburgh.
While a goal of SAEN is to end animal experimentation,
Budkie hopes to start with eliminating duplicate experiments. Michaela
Finkelstein, a member of the Pitt branch of VAL, agreed.
"Of course I want to see the advancement of science,
but we need to be careful not to repeat experiments," she said. However,
she also said she would ultimately like to see an end to all animal