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Articles and Reports

Violations of the Animal Welfare Act at the University of Pennsylvania

USDA inspection reports for the University of Pennsylvania (UPA) for the period 3/14/05 – 11/18/05 reveal an excessively high number of violations/non-compliances with regard to the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). In fact, as compared to over 250 laboratories for the same period, UPA has the highest total of violations of this federal law of any lab in the nation.

These violations are primarily in three categories veterinary care, housing/facilities/sanitation and institutional animal care and use committee. Other areas include unqualified personnel and inadequate environmental enhancement for primates.

Inadequate veterinary care can include many things from the use of inappropriate or expired drugs to downright veterinary negligence. While several issues exist regarding pharmaceuticals (expired drugs, use of non-pharmaceutical chemicals as drugs, etc.) one example will suffice to illustrate the severity of violations in this area. The records for sheep #534 indicate that this animals’ suffered from fever, inappetence, abdominal bloat, and decreased fecal output on the 3rd/4th days following surgery. Veterinary staff was not notified, and on the 5th day following surgery this sheep was found dead. While it is impossible to know if this sheep could have been saved if veterinary care had been provided, the fact that no one was even notified of the need for care is a clear case of negligence. Veterinary records for several other sheep indicate that pain relieving medications were not administered properly, likely causing them to experience pain unnecessarily. Other issues involving inadequate veterinary care include (in the 11/18/05 report) more incidents of improperly administered pain relievers, non-pharmaceutical chemicals used as drugs, a pig with an untreated skin lesion, and a piglet with an abdominal hernia.

The Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee (IACUC) is the body within the UPA charged with approving research protocols and enforcing the AWA on the institutional level. It is clear that this body is not performing this function in an effective manner. Research protocols do not include any evidence of searches for alternatives to painful procedures (as required by the AWA), other protocols are not even being reviewed on a regular basis, and paralytic drugs have been used without anesthesia. Two examples will suffice to illustrate the severity of these issues. One protocol which involves alpha-mannosidosis in kittens is discussed in the USDA report for 11/18/05. This disease can have neurological, muscular, and skeletal consequences potentially leading to death. Appropriate methods of euthanasia for these suffering animals are not even discussed. Yet another protocol involves discusses depriving cats and ferrets of sleep for up to 10 hours at a time, without addressing the potential for distress in these animals.

The violations at UPA are serious in nature due to their potential to compromise human safety through invalidation of research protocols as well as the obvious implications of improper care for the animals. Many of these issues show up as repeat violations (10) and therefore illustrate the callous and indifferent attitude of UPA staff to both scientific method and animal care regulations.

The research protocols at the University of Pennsylvania which have repeatedly broken federal regulations should be immediately terminated, and the staff responsible for these violations should be permanently barred from all contact with animals at the UPA facilities.

See the reports:
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

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