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

Media Coverage

Animal treatment in labs not cause for concern, Pitt says

WB 2004
By: BRENDA MILLER
Staff Writer
Posted: 8/19/04

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 U.S. Department of Agriculture along with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

SAEN released a report, titled "Breaking the Law: Animal Care in U.S. Labs," which looks 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," University officials said in a response statement. The response went on to say that the federal government has not fined the University in regards animal research programs since 1987.

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 seven violations.

"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. She said she would ultimately like to see an end to all animal research.

See more information: University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA

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