Research institute accused of violating Animal Welfare Act

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http://www.abqjournal.com/446359/news/research-institute-accused-of-violations.html

Research institute accused of violating Animal Welfare Act

By Olivier Uyttebrouck, Albuquerque Journal, Friday, August 15, 2014

Inspectors said Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute violated the federal Animal Welfare Act six times from August 2012 to March, according to a recent report that cited the deaths of five monkeys and four rabbits.

Robert W. Rubin, president and CEO of the institute, responded that the use of animals for research is “heavily regulated” by a variety of federal agencies.

“We are diligent about following all regulations to the letter and self-report any incidents to appropriate agencies,” Rubin said Thursday in a written statement.

The nonprofit research institute, located on Kirtland Air Force Base, uses monkeys, dogs, rabbits and other animals to study causes and treatments for respiratory illnesses and studies required for federal approval of new drugs. LRRI has government and private clients ranging from pharmaceutical companies to the Department of Defense.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection report also cited an undated incident in which a primate involved in biosafety level 3 research escaped its primary enclosure and had to be recaptured.

Biosafety level 3 research at LRRI investigates potentially deadly illnesses and toxins transmitted by inhalation, such as avian flu virus, bacillus anthracis and ricin.

“The animal remained contained in the room and was recaptured but illustrates the type of risk posed by not having enough adequately trained personnel to prevent such errors,” a USDA inspector wrote in the July 16 report. The report did not identify the type of primate that escaped.

Inspectors said the incident shows the importance of properly tracking and training personnel involved in animal studies. The report said LRRI’s methods for tracking research staff, particularly those working in biosafety level 3 projects, violates a section of federal law.

In response to questions about specific findings in the report, Rubin said the USDA findings “are not final and are still very much in dispute. Therefore, it would be inappropriate for us to comment on them at this time.”

The report followed a routine inspection in June. The USDA is required to inspect institutions that use species covered by the Animal Welfare Act. The findings could result in fines against LRRI following an appeals process.

In 2011, LRRI was required to pay a $21,750 fine as a result of six violations of the law between 2007 and 2009. Violations included failure to consider alternatives to procedures that caused pain or distress to animals, and failure to ensure qualified employees were performing procedures.

Other incidents cited in the July report involved the deaths of animals at LRRI, including:

Four rabbits involved in an inhalation exposure study that died or were euthanized in August 2012. No exposure studies involving rabbits have been done at LRRI since 2012, the report said.

A rhesus monkey was euthanized in August 2013 after it was mistakenly given a double dose of radiation as part of a study. The report said the animal received the second dose because a worker misread the animal’s identification number. LRRI responded by adding color coding to animal identification records, it said. 

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