Report raises concerns over Dartmouth animal treatment

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Report raises concerns over Dartmouth animal treatment

By MELANIE PLENDA Union Leader Correspondent Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010

HANOVER – Federal findings of an underweight monkey and a live hamster accidentally placed in a freezer overnight at Dartmouth Medical School is raising the hackles of an Ohio-based animal rights group. The United States Department of Agriculture conducted two inspections in 2009 at Dartmouth Medical School, where animals are used for research.

In total, more than a dozen violations were reported between the two inspections, one conducted in June and one in October. However, many of the violations concerned changes in medications used for the animals that went unreported or paperwork incorrectly filled out.

"Negligence at Dartmouth placed a living hamster in a freezer," said Michael Budkie, executive director for the watchdog group Stop Animal Exploitation Now! "This facility should face serious consequences." The center houses between 20,000 and 25,000 animals at the site -- 95 percent of which are rodents --that are used for a number of different research experiments, said Jack Hoopes, director of the comparative research and surgical labs at Dartmouth.

Because Dartmouth's labs are federally funded, it receives regular, usually yearly, inspections by the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, a division of the USDA, said David Sacks, a spokesman for APHIS. The lab must conform to Animal Wellness Act guidelines, Sacks said. He could not say whether Dartmouth received more or less violations or whether the violations were more or less typical than other similar institutions. A call and e-mail to the APHIS veterinarian who conducted the inspection went unanswered. Sacks said Dartmouth was not penalized for any of the violations.

An Oct. 29 inspection report shows in August a lab technician believed she successfully euthanized a hamster and placed it in a carcass freezer. The next day, other technicians discovered the hamster was still alive. The college reported this incident to its oversight committee --Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee -- who reported it to the government, according to the report.

Hoopes said there was "no excuse" for the error. He said the technician was a "new hire," and had been trained in how to properly euthanize the animals, but did not perform the procedure correctly. Since then, Hoopes said, all euthanizing is handled by veterinarians in charge of the care of the research animals.

The hamster was "humanely euthanized" once it was discovered alive, said Michele Martino, assistant director at the labs and a veterinarian.

Hoopes said hundreds of rodents are euthanized a day, and he can't recall a similar accident happening in the past.

Also among the findings were three monkeys showing signs of psychological distress. One monkey poked at the corner of his eye, another had hair loss on its arms and torso, while another was 15 percent lighter than his recommended body weight, according to the inspection report. Inspectors also found the monkeys had not been paired with each other, which is sometimes necessary for socialization and to avoid psychological distress.

Martino, said the three monkeys displayed that behavior when they arrived at the labs. When inspectors visited the labs in October, the monkeys were still in the process of being acclimated to their new environment, which is why they hadn't been paired and could explain some of the distress behaviors.

As for the underweight monkey, she said he doesn't have much of an appetite and that researchers have experimented with different diets.

Since the inspection report, the four lab monkeys have been paired, and have been given more toys to play with. Researchers continue to try to find different foods the underweight monkey might like.

Martino said the monkey has since been gaining weight, but likely is just a small monkey and will never reach his optimal weight.

Hoopes and Martino said all of the violations have been corrected.

See Also:
7 Jan 2010 - Dartmouth lab charged with 12 federal violations in 5 months; Live animal found in carcass freezer
Dartmouth College

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