USDA probes Lehigh's Animal Research Flaws
Media Coverage About SAEN Stop Animal Exploitation Now

ACTION ALERT:

Contact the USDA to DEMAND MAXIMUM FINE against Lehigh University:

Betty.J.Goldentyer@usda.gov
aceast@aphis.usda.gov
919-855-7100

SAMPLE MESSAGE:

Dr Elizabeth Goldentyer, Director, USDA, Eastern Region
Thank you for citing Lehigh University for multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act. Now, please complet the prosecution of this criminal lab by levying the MAXIMUM FINE against this repeat violator 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.

 

USDA probes Lehigh's Animal Research Flaws
By Tony Rhodin, LeighValleyLive.com, March 9, 2016

After a February inspection, the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggested or confirmed corrective action in Lehigh University's handling of animals used in research.

The university faces no fines and a further investigation was not ordered, the USDA said.

Stop Animal Exploitation Nowin a January letter to the USDA asked that the university be fined $10,000 per alleged violation of the Animal Welfare Act for its treatment of and reporting about the treatment of two hamsters used in research. The group that watches over animal research said its complaint caused the USDA's inspection.

But the university said the inspection was standard operating procedure and not driven by the group.

"The referenced USDA Inspection Report is the result of a routine inspection and was not conducted in response to a complaint," Lehigh spokeswoman Lori Friedman said in an email. "All research facilities that are registered with the USDA are subject to routine, unannounced inspections. "

The university self-reported the incidents in 2015 and the watchdog group learned of the violations through Freedom of Information Act requests to the National Institutes of Health.

A hamster was placed in a freezer at Lehigh University's research facility before it was properly euthanized, according to federal documents.

In one case in April 2015, a hamster was exposed to CO2 in an effort to kill it and then it was placed in a bag that was deposited in a freezer, the USDA wrote after a February inspection. The hamster was not dead and got out of the bag before succumbing, the report said.

In the other case, from March 2015, a hamster was removed from its enclosure but was left for 36 hours without food or water in a testing enclosure, the USDA said. The hamster was discovered by faculty personnel, fed and it survived, the USDA said.

Before the USDA inspection Feb. 3-4, the university retrained the person involved in the C02 incident, bought a commercial euthanasia chamber, wrote a new operating procedure and trained personnel in the use of the device, the USDA said. The person involved in the other incident was retrained and no longer works with animals, the USDA said.

There have been no further similar incidents, the USDA said.

Both incidents weren't reported in a timely manner to the faculty Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, because faculty weren't aware they were supposed to do so, the USDA said. The committee, prior to the inspection, provided new written guidance to faculty investigators, the USDA said.

There were no surgical records, including anesthesia dosages given to a gerbil, even though "current established veterinary medical and nursing procedures include documentation of drugs given and procedures performed on animals," the USDA said. The university must correct that going forward, the USDA said.

An exit briefing was conducted with the laboratory manager of research integrity, the USDA said.

"The inspection report contained two findings taken directly from the university's self-report to (the) Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW)," Friedman said. "The USDA acknowledged that the university had already reported and corrected the issues prior to their routine inspection, and that there have been no further instances. The third finding was related to formal documentation of procedures. The USDA will re-inspect the facility as a part of their routine process."

SAEN said the university was "the focus of multiple citations issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture ... for breaking federal laws." Executive Director Michael A. Budkie later said any item listed in the report is a citation.

"We are thrilled that the USDA has taken the first step in prosecuting Lehigh University('s) incompetence on the most basic levels," Budkie said in a news release. "... Now the USDA must continue the process of prosecuting Lehigh."

The USDA said there are no penalties associated with an inspection report.

"If they are not in compliance, it is documented on an inspection report and the inspector speaks to the facility owner/manager about the noncompliance(s)," a USDA spokeswoman said. "If a facility's noncompliance(s) are particularly grievous or they are routinely in noncompliance, we may open an investigation. There is no open investigation into this facility."

Budkie said that doesn't mean there won't be an investigation in the future.

"It's difficult to see if there will be anything further," he said.

But Friedman said the issue is in the past.

"There have been no findings or allegations of research misconduct," Friedman said. "Lehigh University is committed to the ongoing protection of the welfare of animals used in research to continuous efforts to enhance the efficacy of the university's animal welfare program."

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