Dead hamster at Lehigh sparks animal-rights complaint
Media Coverage About SAEN Stop Animal Exploitation Now

ACTION ALERT:

Contact USDA to DEMAND MAXIMUM FINE against Lehigh University:

Dr Elizabeth Goldentyer
Director, USDA, Eastern Region
Betty.J.Goldentyer@usda.gov; aceast@aphis.usda.gov
919-855-7100

Please LEVY a MAXIMUM FINE against this repeat violator, Lehigh University, for their blatant disregard of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) when their negligence killed a hamster, denied food/water to another hamster, and their administration failed to follow the AWA and investigate the incident in a timely manner.

Dead hamster at Lehigh sparks animal-rights complaint
By Jim Deegan, Connect.LehighValleyLive.com, January 15, 2016

An animal research watchdog group has filed a federal complaint over Lehigh University researchers' treatment of two hamsters, including one that was bagged in a freezer before it died.

Stop Animal Exploitation Now filed the complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and seeks that Lehigh be fined the maximum $10,000 for two incidents from last year.

Lehigh failed to properly impanel a review committee to go over what happened and it should have prohibited the facility director from ever working with animals again, said Michael A. Budkie, SAEN's executive director.

Budkie said in the first incident last March, a hamster was deprived of food or water for 36 hours. The next month, researchers euthanized a hamster using carbon dioxide and placed it in a plastic bag in a freezer. The animal was later found outside the bag, he said.

"Their own information says that they could tell the animal awakened in the freezer, got out of the bag and crawled around, trying to get out," Budkie said. "I can't imagine anything more horrible than that."

The animal awakened in the freezer, got out of the bag and crawled around, trying to get out."

Lehigh disclosed the incidents on its own to the National Institutes of Health in a July letter from Alan Snyder, Lehigh's vice president and associate provost for research and graduate studies.

University spokeswoman Lauren Weaver said in a statement that the letter "was provided per Lehigh's commitment to self-reporting to federal officials" with the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW).

"OLAW expressed satisfaction with the corrective actions regarding these incidents," Weaver said. "Lehigh University remains committed to protecting the safety, health and welfare of all animals."

Neither Lehigh nor the federal records detailed what research the hamsters were used for.

"I can't imagine a more deliberate and brutal torture of an animal," said Northampton County Assistant District Attorney Richard Pepper.

Lehigh barred two people involved in the incidents from its animal research facility, but Budkie said the university's response wasn't sufficient.

The facility director that person is not identified in the documents also served as a principal investigator and chairman of the internal review panel, although he was eventually removed from heading the review board.

"We feel this person ought to be removed and prevented from working with animals, period," said Budkie, who is based in the Cincinnati, Ohio, area. "They've obviously demonstrated a willingness to cover up the incident."

Budkie said the Lehigh incidents and SAEN's work highlight flaws within the federal government's oversight and responses.

He said a memo of understanding between the NIH and U.S. Department of Agriculture calls for the sharing of information. The Department of Agriculture is the regulatory agency that enforces federal laws that protect research animals, but hasn't moved to do that in dozens of cases over the last two years until prodded by SAEN, Budkie said.

He said animal research should be eliminated at Lehigh and other research facilities entirely. Taxpayers pay about $14 billion a year to the government to fund such work, he said.

"The use of animals in research is old science and we would be better served if they moved to the 21st century and concentrated on cutting-edge technology that doesn't involve animals," he said.

SAEN learned of the Lehigh infractions through its systematic review of registered animal research facilities in the U.S., Budkie said. 

See also:

Return to Media Coverage