Animal-rights group protests at Penn

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"Exposing the truth to wipe out animal experimentation"

Animal-rights group protests at Penn

By Dana DiFilippo, Philadelphia Daily News, Monday, September 26, 2011


PENN BIOMEDICAL researchers are sick puppies.

Or so say at least 10 animal-rights activists who were on the University of Pennsylvania campus yesterday protesting animal research there, after the school received a federal warning about conditions that led to the deaths of a puppy and three gerbils.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which enforces the Animal Welfare Act, issued the warning last month, after inspectors found that a newborn puppy died after getting trapped beneath a kennel floor grate and that three gerbils died apparently because of dehydration from "unsuitable sipper tubes."

Inspectors also found algae growing in the dirty drinking water of four horses, two dogs with paw cysts their caretakers hadn't detected and a dirty pen where 15 heifers had to stand in excrement to feed.

"It's not only a tragedy that animals are dying totally unnecessarily; it's also very troubling that a huge university that receives tens of millions of dollars in federal funding for animal experimentation can't even make sure animals receive adequate water," said Michael A. Budkie, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now, an Ohio-based group that organized the protest, held on a small plaza on the southeast corner of 34th and Walnut streets.

Protester Bernard Jones, 33, a Penn engineering alumnus from Center City, agreed. "If a large institution like University of Pennsylvania can do this kind of unethical and poor science, why are they getting my tax dollars?" he asked.

Penn spokeswoman Phyllis Holtzman couldn't immediately access funding figures yesterday for the animals it uses for biomedical research, but noted that Penn is the second-largest recipient of National Institutes of Health funding.

Ninety-seven percent of the animals Penn uses in laboratories are mice and rats bred and raised for research "aimed at finding treatments and cures for some of the most vexing diseases of our time, for both humans and animals," she told the Daily News.

The violations have been corrected, Holtzman said. "We are continually working to improve our animal-care programs with the goal to eliminate any shortcomings that occur and prevent them from recurring," she said.

Budkie's group complained that Penn should have been fined for the violations, and called for an end to animal research.

"It would be a better use of funding to put those millions of dollars into health care for human beings now," Budkie said.

"I don't want to base my safety or my health on the results of the research of a university that can't follow basic laws."

- Staff writer Stephanie Farr contributed to this report.

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