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

Media Coverage

USDA fines university for animal neglect

CABNR hit with $11,400 penalty after 10-month investigation for improper treatment of livestock

By Jordan C. Butler
Published: Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued an $11,400 fine against the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources in May for inadequate care and improper documentation of pigs and sheep.

The USDA's investigation, which lasted from May 2004 to March, reported the college mistreated its laboratory pigs by neglecting to give them drinking water and medical attention. In total, the college had 46 violations, the USDA report said.

In the report, the USDA vowed to file "higher civil and criminal penalties for each violation" if UNR did not pay the fine.

The university paid the fine, but Richard Simmonds, director of laboratory animal medicine at UNR, said the administration paid it to end the conflict rather than admit fault.

"I do not think there was anything that could be classified as animal abuse," Simmonds said. He said University President John Lilley "paid the fine to get on with life."

UNR Provost John Frederick spoke on behalf of Lilley about the animal abuse allegations.

Frederick said challenging the USDA citation would be more expensive than paying it. He also said the university paid the fine because the USDA had accurate violations in its report, but none of the violations could be considered animal abuse.

"It's kind of an admission that the USDA cited us for these things," Frederick said. "Yes, we do have some facilities we need to fix, but are we abusing our animals? No."

Frederick said the USDA did not consider its 46 violations as animal abuse when the administration asked the agency about the matter.

The USDA could not be reached for comment at press time Monday.

Simmonds also said that any mistreatment could not be considered abuse because the college did not "deliberately" harm its animals. Simmonds said he was confident the USDA would have dismissed 28 of the 46 violations if the USDA had held a hearing with college officials.

He also said he believes most of the violations were related to inadequate documentation of animals rather than any alleged animal abuse.

"I'm comfortable that the university has been doing everything it needed to do and taken every action necessary," Simmonds said.

Professor Hussein S. Hussein said the College of Agriculture's actions should be considered "certified abuse" because the USDA found numerous violations in a ten-month span.

Hussein said he called for veterinary attention for 10 pigs in May 2004 because their frothing mouths made him believe the pigs were rabid. The USDA report included the pigs as a part of their list of violations.

But Simmonds said the pigs, a Hormel Sinclair breed, tend to froth at the mouth and were completely healthy. He said Hussein "misinterpreted" the frothing pigs as animal negligence.

Hussein declined Simmonds' statement.

"If that was the case, why were only two of the 10 pigs doing that (frothing)?" Hussein said. "They all had the same genetics, same breed, same everything."

Hussein also said that a certified veterinarian visited the frothing pigs three times because he was very concerned for their health.

Fredericks declined comment regarding Hussein's statements.

Although Simmonds said he found the USDA investigation inaccurate, he said the USDA investigation inspired the college to address some of its problems.

Simmonds said the department will hire a licensed veterinarian technician to assure that UNR follows all USDA policies.

"We're looking at better ways of documentation and operations at the administrative level," Simmonds said. "I'm comfortable that the university has done everything it needed to do and taken every action necessary."

On July 16, the national watchdog organization Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! labeled UNR as the "worst lab in the nation." The animal advocacy group used the USDA's reported 46 violations as the basis for its claims. The organization then protested at UNR for the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources' mistreatment of animals.

Michael Budkie, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!, said UNR's 46 violations in a ten-month span endangered the lives of the laboratory animals. Before the USDA's report on UNR, the organization named the University of California, San Francisco's lab as the "worst lab" in the nation.

"The lab that we had previously named as the worst would have had only 17 violations in a comparable period of time," Budkie said in a press release. "UNR has almost tripled this level."

Simmonds said the worst lab label had no validity.

"I can say that, at best, it is an exaggeration, and at worst, it is a gross misinterpretation," he said.

This summer, Hussein and his legal team prepared their case for the three federal lawsuits he's filed against various UNR faculty and staff members, he said.

In August 2004, Hussein complained to the USDA of animal abuse at UNR.

Then, in October, Hussein said the university locked him out of his research labs. His three lawsuits argue the university retaliated against Hussein when they found he had complained to the USDA.

Simmonds declined comment. He is a defendant in two of the lawsuits.

Hussein said he hoped the trials will begin early next year.

"My problems will be solved in court because that's where every lie will be found," he said.


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