Vanderbilt fined $8,156 for lab animals' deaths Baby monkey put in washing machine

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Vanderbilt University has paid a fine and reviewed its laboratory protocols after a baby monkey accidentally ended up in a washing machine.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which routinely inspects medical research facilities to ensure the proper care and handling of laboratory animals, fined Vanderbilt $8,156 over the accidental deaths of five hamsters and an infant galago monkey, which a lab worker failed to notice before tossing cage bedding material, with the baby inside, in the laundry.

Galago monkeys — also known as bush babies — are fuzzy pocket-sized primates with ping pong-ball eyes. The adults are small enough to fit in your hand. A baby bush baby is even tinier, and the infant in question was a newborn, unnoticed by the lab worker who removed the mother and added the cloth nesting basket to the laundry load.

The incidents happened in 2008. Five hamsters died or had to be euthanized after they were injected with an experimental compound that had been improperly mixed. The USDA and the university reached a settlement agreement on July 15.

Vanderbilt officials released a statement noting that the university itself reported the animals' deaths and took immediate steps to prevent similar accidents in the future.

"Vanderbilt University is firmly committed to the highest standards of care and the most humane protocols for all animals necessary to conduct medical research," John Howser, director of the Medical Center's Office of News & Communications, said in a statement. "The University devotes significant resources, both in terms of money and manpower, to strict oversight of its animal research program."

Vanderbilt is a major medical research center, with elaborate protocols designed to ensure humane treatment of animals it uses in its research into cancer, AIDS, diabetes and other conditions. The USDA inspectors concluded that animals died unnecessarily in 2008 because someone did not follow those protocols.

"The use of animals in clinical research demonstrates clear-cut benefits to mankind, and also to animals themselves," Howser said in a statement. "Many life-saving medications and surgical procedures in use today, for both humans and animals, would not have been possible without prior animal research. Vanderbilt University remains firmly committed to these practices."

USDA inspectors also fined Vanderbilt $7,219 for protocol violations in 2007, and the university was cited, but not fined, in 2006.

"Whether it's a zoo, a circus, Sea World or a university research (laboratory), there are protocols we expect these facilities to abide by," said David Sacks, spokesman for the agency's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Earlier citations The earlier citations dinged the university for lapses such as keeping expired medications in the laboratory and failing to spell out its plans for "environmental enrichment" for laboratory animals — things like hamster wheels or tire swings and other toys to keep the animals stimulated and happy.

News of the fine brought criticism from animal welfare groups, aimed both at the university and the federal regulators.

"Negligence at Vanderbilt took the life of an infant galago and five hamsters and caused unnecessary suffering to other animals," Michael A. Budkie, executive director of the group Stop Animal Exploitation Now. "This facility should face serious consequences, but the USDA is allowing them to literally get away with murder by issuing such a small fine.".

See Also:
Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
Vanderbilt University Charged After Monkey, Hamsters Die - Media Coverage
USDA fines Vanderbilt for lab animal deaths - Media Coverage
Vanderbilt fined $8,156 for lab animals' deaths Baby monkey put in washing machine - Media Coverage
25 Aug 2010 - USDA Fines Vanderbilt in 6 Animal Deaths; Lab Continues to break law - Press Release

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