Hamsters underwent tests at WSU after approval for testing had lapsed

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Hamsters underwent tests at WSU after approval for testing had lapsed

By Fred Mann
March 22, 2010

A U.S. Department of Agriculture report says Wichita State University violated animal welfare laws when a researcher surgically removed ovaries from hamsters for three years without the university’s approval.

The USDA also found that WSU failed to include in three annual reports — 2006, 2007 and 2008 — information that animals were being used for experiments. At least 107 hamsters underwent surgical procedures during that time.

A routine inspection by the USDA on Sept. 14 found that that 54 hamsters had their ovaries surgically removed, and 31 died, between Dec. 16, 2006 and March 6, 2009. Approval of the protocol for the experiments had expired in 2005.

David McDonald, associate provost for research and dean of the graduate school at WSU, said neither the university nor the researcher were aware the approval had lapsed.

“Had we been aware, we certainly would’ve taken measures immediately,” he said.

McDonald said the USDA report alerted the school to the problem, and the university’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, which oversees animal research at WSU, reviewed the matter with the researcher.

The researcher, whom McDonald wouldn’t identify, stopped the experiments and has submitted another protocol for approval.

Hamsters are commonly used by researchers to study the initiation and progression of ovarian cancer to try to understand the disease better and discover new ways to manage it, McDonald said.

McDonald said he didn’t know how the previous protocol approval had been allowed to expire.

A protocol is a description of an experiment to be performed. Protocols must be renewed at intervals. This one was for five years. Personnel and records keeping methods at WSU had changed in that time, McDonald said

“ This one just fell through the cracks,” he said.

Michael Budkie, executive director of the group, Stop Animal Exploitation Now, which publicized the USDA report, said he had to assume the failure to report the use of animals for experiments at WSU was deliberate.

“I can’t understand how you can accidentally forget to report your protocols for three years running,” he said.

The university’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, which includes WSU personnel, a veterinarian and one outside person, is responsible for monitoring animal research protocols, McDonald said.

“That’s where I’m going to focus my efforts, making sure that committee doesn’t miss one again,” McDonald said.

Budkie called the violations “very serious and more than deserving of payment of a fine.”

McDonald said WSU wasn’t fined, but had risked losing its accreditation from the USDA and the American Association for the Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care.

“It would be a problem for both if we had a finding like this that we were then shown not to have been responsive to,” he said.

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Wichita State University, Wichita, KS

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