Harvard vows changes after 4th monkey death

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http://articles.boston.com/2012-02-29/metro/31108344_1_primate-center-monkey-latest-death

Harvard vows changes after 4th monkey death

By Carolyn Y. Johnson, Boston Globe, February 29, 2012

Harvard Medical School suspended new experiments at its New England Primate
Research Center after a cotton top tamarin monkey died Sunday. It was the
fourth monkey to die there under questionable circumstances in less than two
years.

While the incident is still being investigated, the elderly monkey did not
have a water bottle in its cage, and the absence of water probably
contributed to its death, a Harvard official said yesterday.

The monkey was euthanized Sunday, the same day the Department of Agriculture
made public an inspection report that revealed three serious episodes of
monkeys being endangered at the Southborough facility in December and
January, including the death of a dehydrated monkey. The agency cited
Harvard for three violations of animal welfare regulations, for which the
medical school could be fined.

Three of the deaths have occurred since October, despite a change in the
center's leadership the previous month after a comprehensive review found
evidence of insufficient oversight and gaps in following basic procedures.

After returning from an hourslong visit to the primate center yesterday, Dr.
Jeffrey Flier, Harvard Medical School's dean, said that Sunday's death was
"utterly shocking'' and that immediate actions are being taken to protect
animals.

New experiments have been suspended immediately, and a worker involved in
the care of the monkey was placed on administrative leave, he said in an
interview. Teams of supervisors and veterinary staff have been making rounds
of the entire facility, which includes multiple buildings. They are checking
on each animal and each cage, assessing the monkeys' health, and food and
water status, and looking for other issues that could affect the animals'
welfare.

That level of oversight will continue, Flier said, until leadership is
satisfied that such intense scrutiny is no longer necessary or new
procedures are developed. He is also in the process of establishing a
committee including outside specialists, who will review the policies,
operations, and management of the facility.

"The things that have been taking place at the primate center, including the
most recent adverse event, are matters that I take with the utmost
seriousness as the dean of Harvard Medical School,'' Flier said. The
problems "are going to be fixed. My involvement in this has been very
substantial over the last year, but it is getting raised to a higher level
in terms of my personal direct engagement.''

Harvard self-reported the death to an Agriculture Department inspector,
according to David Sacks, a spokesman for the USDA. 

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