OU faces fine for research animal mistreatment
Media Coverage About SAEN Stop Animal Exploitation Now

ACTION ALERT:

Contact the USDA to Demand another Federal Fine against OU:

Dr. Robert Gibbens
Director, Western Region, USDA
Robert.M.Gibbens@usda.gov
acwest@aphis.usda.gov 

SAMPLE MESSAGE:

Thank you for levying a $19,143 fine against the University of Oklahoma. However, serious federal violations at this facility have continued. So, please LEVY another Fine against University of Oklahoma for their blatant disregard of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) when their negligence killed a dog and 5 guinea pigs. This repeat offender's behavior must NOT be tolerated and MUST be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

 

OU faces fine for research animal mistreatment

By Mack Burke, NormanTranscript.com, January 21, 2016

The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a $19,143 fine against OU for violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act related to animal testing and could issue additional fines in the near future.

According to a recently released document filed in November by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the university is being cited for failure to follow research protocols, failure to administer pain relief to animals in connection to surgical procedures and inadequate veterinary care.

According to the USDA, 11 incidents from 2014-2015 were listed during the USDA evaluation. The USDA citation details an incident in which OU’s research facility failed to remove baby baboons while their cages were being hosed down. Three approximately three-month old baboons were “completely soaked with water following cleaning of their primary enclosure. One baboon was on the floor shivering and clearly distressed,” according to the citation.

The OU Health Sciences Center was also cited for failure to secure approval for changes in how the animals were handled. According to the citation, a male baboon named “Franklin” was administered an unapproved pain reliever, and another, “Catman,” was not given “special attention to a nonhuman primate showing signs of psychological distress.”

“Catman was visibly agitated and showed a repetitive movement pattern that involved swinging his head in a circular motion followed by movement around his cage, followed by another head swing,” the USDA citation said. “You previously identified “Catman” as an animal that needed special attention and had him on a targeted training program. However, when you placed him on a new protocol, you discontinued his individual training, and had not replaced it with additional enrichment.”

According to the document, there were multiple instances where unsupervised guinea pigs bled to death after removing caps to their jugular catheters, and several rabbits underwent procedures without the proper administration of approved pain reliever buprenorphine.

The citation also details other violations, such as failing to “provide adequate veterinary care and use appropriate methods to prevent, control, diagnose and treat diseases and injuries for a rabbit ... that had swollen conjunctiva around the eyes, was very quiet and still, and huddled in the rear corner of its enclosure.”

An animal rights advocacy group, Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN), is pushing for more fines in connection with events that it claims occurred after those cited by the USDA.

SAEN Executive Director Michael Budkie said OU is among the worst offenders when it comes to research involving animals.

“We’ve seen that the University of Oklahoma has a long term pattern of violating the Animal Welfare Act and that’s why we monitor them closely,” Budkie said.

SAEN has been investigating OU's handling of research animals and has expressed concern about the fate of hundreds of baboons still at the El Reno facility. Budkie said regardless of the perceived benefit of animal testing, it’s inhuman and should be stopped.

“The incidents disclosed in the USDA fine, when taken together with more recent information, prove that OU's entire animal research program is damaged beyond repair,” Budkie said. “This fine signals that the USDA is taking OU's federal violations very seriously and will not allow continued illegal activity by OU research staff to go unpunished. I expect that this may well be the first of several federal fines against OU."

Dr. James Tomasek, of the OU Health Sciences Center, issued a written statement Thursday in response to the citation. He defended the OUHSC's record and said the university is taking additional steps to address the issue.

“The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center holds in the highest regard its responsibility to comply with all federal and regulatory standards related to animal welfare, and to ensure humane and ethical treatment of any animals used in research and education," Tomasek's statement said.

"The Health Sciences Center's Institutional Animal Care and Use Program has been a voluntary accredited member of the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International since 1973. The Association's International accreditation program goes beyond federal regulations and rigorously evaluates organizations that use animals in research, teaching, or testing.

"The Health Sciences Center has implemented comprehensive corrective actions in response to each of the incidents identified by the USDA as part of its internal compliance review. These actions include creation of a dedicated Office of Animal Welfare Assurance, led by a licensed veterinarian with expertise in laboratory animal medicine and staffed by a licensed veterinary technician. Comparative medicine reporting to senior leadership has been reorganized, including formation of a dedicated executive oversight committee. Research principal investigators and staff have participated in additional training. New policies and procedures have been developed. Increased internal oversight is being given to all animal research.

“The Health Sciences Center is committed to rigorous safeguards to promote an ethical, humane, and compliant research program and appreciates the guidance received from the USDA. We have paid in full the USDA Settlement Agreement involving incidents in 2014 and January 2015 and the OU Health Sciences Center will continue to work closely with the USDA moving forward." 

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