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Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!
S. A. E. N.
"Exposing the truth to wipe out animal experimentation"

Newsletters
The Defender
Vol. 3, No. 1 - Spring/Summer 2004

Law Breaking Laboratories -- SAEN Blows the Whistle!!

During World Laboratory Animal Liberation Week (WLALW) 2004 Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! released a report: Breaking the Law, Animal Care in U.S. Labs, which exposed major violations of the law within twenty five labs across the country. These facilities are among the worst offenders in the U.S., accounting for 559 violations of federal regulations for the treatment of animals in labs in a three-year period. This article summarizes the most crucial information from this report.

The shocking findings of our investigation caused a veritable firestorm of media coverage in more than six major U.S. cities. Examples of these stories can be viewed on our website at www.saenonline.org in the media coverage section.

Many of the laboratories exposed in the SAEN report are well known across the U.S.: Harvard, Yale, Northwestern, Pfizer, University of California, University of Pittsburgh, University of Massachusetts, Johns Hopkins, University of Pennsylvania, University of Connecticut, and University of Florida. According to our statistics four of the top eight labs in the U.S. for receiving funding by the National Institutes of Health for animal experimentation are in this group.

The majority of these labs violated the law in basic areas like veterinary care, food, water, etc. In many instances animals were concretely affected by these violations which even led directly to animal deaths. The consistent pattern of violations in the area of Institutional Animal Care & Use Committees (IACUC) indicates that these labs are incapable of following regulations on their own.

The overwhelming pattern of violations exhibited in these facilities raises an obvious question: “Is the USDA effective in enforcing the Animal Welfare Act?” The answer is No. While specific violations are not always repeated, labs continue to illegally abuse animals over extended periods of time.

USDA fines seem to have no impact on these facilities. The University of Connecticut (UCONN), Storrs, was fined $129,000 for violating the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) – for infractions which occurred before 3/12/01. The date of the first USDA inspection document used as a basis for our report is 5/31/01 – which follows the period of violations for which UCONN was fined. In other words, UCONN had 43 violations of the AWA in the period immediately following the levying of a $129,000 fine. Apparently the fine was insufficient to prevent this laboratory from breaking the law again.

It is shocking that the facility with the worst record in terms of numbers of violations, most repeat and direct violations, and the highest numbers of violations in areas of IACUC and Veterinary Care -- the University of California, San Francisco -- has received only a measly $2000 fine in recent years. Apparently the fine was far too small to be considered significant enough to cause any changes. For a facility that receives over $160 million from the NIH for the performance of animal experiments, a paltry $2000 fine is little more than pocket change.

It is strange that a tiny lab, Mount Ida College (reporting less than 100 animals used annually), would come in 11th with twenty five AWA violations, ahead of labs that use as many as 19,000 animals annually. It is also surprising that Mt. Ida’s neighbor in Massachusetts (UMASS, Amherst) was fined $6215, while incurring fewer violations, yet Mt. Ida has not been fined.

It is shocking that certain situations have not resulted in more substantial reactions from the USDA. For example, when a dog is killed by accidentally running the animal through a cage washer, severe enforcement actions should result. The USDA official who inspected Pfizer after this occurrence simply noted the death of the animal and said that procedures need to be put into place to prevent the repetition of such an occurrence.

It is very surprising that the USDA documentation which formed the basis of our report essentially failed to mention issues concerning either the unnecessary duplication of experimentation or the non-reporting of experiments involving unrelieved pain. This is particularly alarming since several labs examined in this report (Johns Hopkins, Emory, Northwestern, Yale, Harvard, etc.) are engaged in two areas of experimentation (drug addiction and brain mapping) in primates which are among the most duplicated and often involve unrelieved pain.

We believe that the USDA typically reacts too slowly to violations of the Animal Welfare Act, and many violations are allowed to continue for extended periods before any regulatory enforcement actions are taken. When enforcement actions are finally taken, they are too insignificant to have any meaningful impact. Fines in the thousands of dollars for institutions which receive income in the hundreds of millions from animal research are almost laughable.

Our conclusions should not be news to the USDA. During 1995 the USDA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) performed an audit of the Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) regarding enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act. The findings of this audit were:

“APHIS does not have the authority, under current legislation, to effectively enforce the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act. For instance, the agency cannot terminate or refuse to renew licenses or registrations in cases where serious or repeat violations occur . . . . In addition, APHIS cannot assess monetary penalties for violations unless the violator agrees to pay them, and penalties are often so low that violators merely regard them as part of the cost of doing business.”

Apparently nothing has really changed at the USDA since 1995. The OIG report recommended that APHIS initiate legislation to extend its enforcement powers. This course of action has not been followed, and as a result, APHIS’ ability to enforce the AWA has not changed in any way.

When we examine AWA enforcement, we must begin to wonder if the laws were designed for purposes other than the protection of animals. If the legislation is not protecting animals (clearly it is not), then what does it actually accomplish? It allows laboratories to say that they are regulated. In other words, the Animal Welfare Act (however well intended) primarily gives animal laboratories the ability to say that since they are inspected, and supervised, conditions within the facilities must be adequate. Laws have been passed; inspectors are in place. Fines are even paid. Everything must be ok?

The inspection reports examined for the assembly of our report clearly indicate that the AWA is not protecting animals. Dogs, cats, primates, pigs, and animals of many other species are going without veterinary care, without food and water, and suffer needlessly.

Please write to the White House Office of Management and Budget to urge that APHIS be given the power to close laboratories for violating the Animal Welfare Act:

Joshua B. Bolten, Director
White House Office of Management & Budget
725 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20503

 

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