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Press Releases

Public's Safety at risk, according to 'whistleblower' complaint against USDA; Watchdog calls for congressional hearings

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Contact: Michael Budkie, SAEN Executive Director 513.575-5517

Attention: Science/Government Desk

Public's Safety at risk, according to 'whistleblower' complaint against USDA; Watchdog calls for congressional hearings

Washington, DC (January 18, 2005) - The safety of the public is at risk because the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture is not enforcing federal laws regarding the care and use of animals, according to a complaint filed with the U.S. Government Office of Special Counsel by a current USDA inspector.

USDA/APHIS inspector Richard Botelho, Jr. - in a whistleblower complaint - charges the USDA is guilty of failure to enforce federal law, dereliction of duty and pork barrel spending. The OSC complaint also alleges ethics violations by inspectors including vacations at tax-payer expense and excessive expenditures for equipment at the USDA.

This latest complaint comes on the heels of whistleblowers in other branches of the USDA including food inspection.

"Failing to enforce the minimum standards and regulations of the AWA has harmful risks to the public," said Botelho. "Animal Care in the eastern region is (also) failing to enforce the Animal Welfare Act, which is endangering the animals we are responsible to protect."

"Mr. Botelho's statement echoes findings by the USDA Office of Inspector General as well as findings in our own investigations," said Michael A. Budkie, A.H.T., Executive Director of SAEN, a national research watchdog organization. "We have discovered that the USDA can't even count animals correctly. These revelations come as no surprise.

"We have now contacted the chairs of both the House & Senate Agriculture committees requesting immediate hearings to investigate USDA/APHIS/AC," said Budkie. "It is clear this agency avoids enforcing the law whenever possible. Something needs to change."

Budkie added that his organization has recorded other, similar complaints by USDA inspectors about major failures in the organization effecting public health.

SAEN investigations have revealed laboratories that under-reported primate use by more than 1,000 animals and multiple violations of the AWA by research institutions but ignored by the USDA.

The full text of Botelho's statement is posted on the SAEN website at www.saenonline.org as are reports on violations of federal law by major labs in the U.S.

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