Feds may probe Southborough primate center after animal's death
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SOUTHBOROUGH — The federal government is weighing whether it will launch a formal probe into the practices of the New England Primate Research Center following the death of an animal there in June.
"The preliminary step is simply making the routine inspection," said David Sacks, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "Research facilities are responsible for following protocol to the letter."
During a June 29 inspection, the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services said it found the body of a primate on the floor of a cage that had been sent through a cage-washing system on June 9.
Sacks said yesterday the agency is uncertain about whether it will launch a formal probe.
In her report, Veterinary Medical Officer Paula S. Gladue, who works for the agency, said that "results of microscopic examinations of the body are consistent with the conclusion that the non-human primate had died before the enclosure was put into the cage washer."
The cause of death was not disclosed in Gladue's report. The report did not identify the primate's species.
Michael A. Budkie, co-founder of an Ohio-based animal rights organization called Stop Animal Exploitation Now, sent copies of the June 29 inspection report to the Daily News.
Sacks said the USDA makes its investigation reports available online.
He said the USDA is dedicated to enforcing the Animal Welfare Act. "It's typical for us to routinely inspect facilities like these once a year."
Budkie said yesterday that he's skeptical of the conclusion that the primate was dead before it was sent through the cage washer.
"Cage washers are designed to sterilize cages and that process would cause changes to the animal's tissue," he said. "You'd think that would compromise the ability to tell how the animal died.
"In the end, shouldn't they have noticed there was a dead primate inside the cage?"
The Southborough facility, owned and operated by Harvard Medical School, is one of eight National Primate Research Centers. It houses 1,800 primates.
USDA records indicate no violations were recorded during the facility's previous inspection, which was Feb. 9.
Gladue's report, however, suggests the facility's staff might not have been adequately trained.
"Whenever primary enclosures are cleaned using steam, primates must be removed to ensure the animals are not harmed, wetted or distressed in the process," Gladue stated. "The failure of personnel to remove a primate from a primary enclosure prior to cleaning by steam in a mechanical cage washer has direct and adverse affects on the health and well-being of the animal.
"The research facility needs to take appropriate steps to ensure that all personnel are instructed in the requirements of this section for the health and safety of the animals."
Harvard Medical School did not respond to requests for comment.
Harvard Medical School
Dead monkey raises alarms Primate lab gets USDA citation - Media Coverage
Feds may probe Southborough primate center after animal's death - Media Coverage
2 Aug 2010 - USDA Cites Harvard as Primate Found Dead in Cagewasher; Watchdog Group Demands Inspection Tour of Primate Center - Press Release
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