The Washington Post
By FREDERIC J. FROMMER
The Associated Press
Friday, June 12, 2009; 2:45 PM
WASHINGTON -- Government inspection reports cited three research
laboratories for a host of animal welfare violations, ranging from
problems with surgeries that forced researchers to euthanize a dog
and a primate to leaving a live hamster in a walk-in freezer.
The reports, uncovered by an animal rights group, detail
violations at BioReliance Corp., Charles River Laboratories Inc.,
and Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.
The animal rights group, Stop Animal Exploitation Now, based in
Milford, Ohio, criticized the U.S. Agriculture Department for not
taking tough enforcement action against the facilities.
"These facilities should face serious consequences," said the
group's executive director, Michael Budkie.
The USDA, which is charged with enforcing the Animal Welfare
Act's standards for research animals, said it did enter into an
out-of-court $10,000 financial settlement with one of the
institutions, Charles River. But that settlement was for a different
incident, in May, 2008, when too-hot temperatures led to the deaths
Charles River announced last August that 32 primates died in May
2008 at its Sparks, Nev. lab, saying the cause was an incorrect
Budkie called the payment "virtually meaningless," saying that
the primates that died probably cost the company more than $10,000.
The USDA reports show that:
-At Charles River Laboratories' Shrewsbury, Mass., facility, two
primates undergoing surgical procedures were handled improperly. One
subsequently had to be euthanized. A dog also had to be euthanized
after a gauze square was left in its abdominal cavity during a
previous surgery, and caused an obstruction.
Charles River spokeswoman Amy Cianciaruso said in an e-mail that
since that August 2008 USDA report, "We have implemented new
procedures and enhanced our processes, which has helped prevent the
recurrence of similar events at this facility."
-At BioReliance Corp., in Rockville, Md., a lab assistant
reported a hamster running loose inside the walk-in refrigerator,
and a live hamster was found in a euthanasia bag inside the walk-in
freezer. Failure to follow established euthanasia procedures "caused
undue pain and distress for 2 hamsters and possibly 18 other
Another report said a lab assistant reported finding a dead
hamster in a cage in June 2008 after the cage was removed from a
sterilizer. "It is assumed the animal was alive prior to being
placed" into the sterilizer, the report said, and a system of checks
and balances must be established "to ensure animals are not
subjected to unnecessary pain and distress."
BioReliance said it reported the hamster incidents to the USDA.
"The issues surrounding the events have been corrected and
disciplinary actions were taken. Since these events, the company has
received two clean inspections by the USDA," the company said in a
-At Tufts University's School of Veterinary Medicine in North
Grafton, Mass., a 2006 USDA inspection report faulted the school for
withholding anesthesia from piglets and lambs during procedures
without adequate scientific justification for doing so. The report
does not identify the procedures. School spokesman Tom Keppeler said
it was castration.
The piglets and lambs were part of the school's working farm,
Keppeler said, and farm animals in the U.S. are routinely castrated
Gail Golab, director of the animal welfare division of the
American Veterinary Medical Association, confirmed that anesthesia
is not usually used during farm animal castrations for a variety of
reasons, such as questions about the drugs' effectiveness and
residue they'd leave in the animals that are ultimately eaten.
The school appealed the citation in 2007, arguing that because
farm animals used for food are excluded from the Animal Welfare Act,
the castration of these animals should be excluded from federal
regulation under the law. The agency denied the appeal, saying the
animals are covered by the law when used for teaching veterinary
Piglets and lambs at the school are still castrated without
anesthesia - just not by the students.
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