Isthmus - 7 Jul 2006
Most of the more than 600 dogs used each year by the UW-Madison in various experiments are at some point put to death. That's the way things are supposed to work. But what happened last year involving a dog identified as #458783 represents an aberration, the amimal's health crisis was apparently neglected and it may have suffered unduly. The death resulted in the UW receiving four citations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which inspects animal research facilities. The citations, unearthed by an Ohio-based animal rights activist, also document other problems with UW facilities and practices.
What follows is an article on these citations from the July 7 issue of Isthmus, the citations themselves (the one involving the dog appears on Pages 2-4), and some follow-up correspondence between the UW and the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, part of the National Institutes of Health.
1. The Isthmus item, from Bill Lueders' "Watchdog" column
On the death of a dog UW draws federal citations for neglecting sick research animal
On July 5, 2005, a dog used for research at the UW-Madison died in its kennel. Dawn Barksdale, a veterinary medical officer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, subsequently reviewed records documenting obvious signs of distress over the dog’s last several months.
Vomit was found on numerous occasions. The dog was "not eating and appeared dehydrated and thin." Tests showed abnormal kidney values. Yet apparently no attempt was made to notify veterinary staff, even on the day before the dog’ s death, when staff logged: "panting heavily, unresponsive to sound and movement, vomit present in kennel, appearance that of skin and bones." The necropsy report said the dog was "showing prominent skeletal structure and sunken in eyes, with little or no subcutaneous fat."
The incident led to four USDA citations, including three repeat violations for inadequate veterinary care. These were among 21 citations issued to the UW between Jan. 1 and early October 2005 and obtained by a national group called SAEN (Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!)
Michael Budkie of SAEN says the UW’s record, on top of past problems - the UW, Isthmus has learned, was fined $6,875 over the deaths in 2004 of three marmoset monkeys left in a cage sanitized by scalding water -- marks it as one of the nation’s worst animal research facilities. "Some labs," he notes, "didn’t have a single violation."
But Dr. Eric Sandgren, chair of the UW’s All Campus Animal Care and Use Committee, says mistakes are inevitable given the sheer size of the UW’s operation. Last year, UW researchers used 1,990 monkeys, 673 dogs, 138 cats, 450 pigs and hundreds of other animals in various experiments.
"We want to be perfect," says Sandgren. "You’ll never have a system that’s perfect, but we’re trying to get as close as we can."
Sandgren says the dog was suffering from advanced kidney disease unrelated to the research and that earlier intervention would not have saved its life. "The proper step was to put that animal to sleep." Still, he acknowledges the seriousness of the incident.
"We did not monitor that dog properly, period," he says, noting that members of his committee were upset. "We did a lot of follow up on that one. It was not taken lightly." In a letter to the feds, the UW itemized steps taken to prevent a recurrence, including additional staff training. The feds deemed this response "commendable."
In another incident that drew multiple citations, inspector Barksdale observed a rhesus monkey with its extended arm stuck between the front bars of its cage. Records showed this happened at least five times before. A technician tried to extricate the arm by applying lube.
"The arm was obviously swollen and within a few seconds of manipulation, the animal began to vocalize," states the inspection report. Barksdale ordered the technician to stop and summon a vet; the animal was anesthetized, and a bolt cutter used to free its arm.
Sandgren says the technician "was doing what he was supposed to do" and that the inspector’s presence may have agitated the animal. He calls the matter a "professional disagreement." Still, changes were made so the monkey would not get its arm stuck again.
Several citations concern problems with facilities, from cracked floors to peeling paint to a smelly mop. Sandgren says "every one of the physical plant deficiencies has been corrected" and additional money spent on other improvements. As he puts it, "We’re not going rest until the problems drop to zero, which means we’re not ever going to rest."
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