Ohio State's animal treatment to be investigated

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Please contact the Director of the USDA’s Eastern Regional Office to insist that they take immediate action against Ohio State University for ten violations of the Animal Welfare Act including: use of improper euthanasia agents, inadequate veterinary care, failure to disclose animals used in experimentation, failure to seek alternatives for painful procedures, failure to provide environmental enhancement for primates, improper enclosures, etc.

Dr. Elizabeth Goldentyer 
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Ohio State’s animal treatment to be investigated

By Shay Trotter, The Lantern, Sunday, January 27, 2013

Animal welfare group Stop Animal Exploitation Now has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to re-examine the 16 animal research violations for which Ohio State was cited last year to ensure corrections took place.

Michael Budkie, the executive director of SAEN, said the group routinely examines reports for laboratories in the U.S. which the USDA makes available online. OSU’s large number of citations immediately stood out to the group as a problem, causing SAEN to file a complaint to the USDA last week.

“We’re very concerned any time we see that many animal welfare violations because that starts to demonstrate a serious pattern of breaking the law,” Budkie said. “When you see that many violations, you are looking at a laboratory that is not following the regulations, they’re not providing adequately for the animals and they’re not meeting even the minimal standards.”

The 10 violations cited in July, according to the USDA inspection report, included use of expired drugs on canines, inadequate veterinary care resulting in hair loss in half the grass rats, and hamsters being housed at 46.4 degrees Fahrenheit, below the minimum of 60 degrees.

Other violations in the July inspection involved housing all of the lab’s 12 macaques, a species of monkey, separately when pair or group housing is required for primates that exist in social groups in nature.

Six violations were reported in May, including an issue of unsanitary hamster procedure rooms and various plywood doors between animal stalls being significantly chewed, according to the May inspection report.

Jeff Grabmeier, senior director of Research and Innovation Communications at OSU, said the university constantly ensures that its researchers are using the most humane methods in their work with the 130,000 animals under the university’s care.

“We take seriously our obligation to meet and exceed all federal regulations involving the use of laboratory animals and we remain committed to continually looking for ways to improve the care of the animals housed at the university,” Grabmeier said in statement.

Budkie said the regulations in the Animal Welfare Act that set the standards for the care of research animals were being overlooked. The act was signed into law in 1966 and, according to the USDA website, “is the only federal law in the United States that regulates the treatment of animals in research, exhibition, transport and by dealers.”

Budkie said the act was designed to protect animals from basic violations such as those in question.

“If it’s not functioning in that way, then these animals are in significant jeopardy because if they’re getting away with these things that the USDA found, what else is going on that the USDA didn’t happen to uncover?” Budkie said.

Jan Weisenberger, senior associate vice president for research, said in an email to OSU researchers that they inspect all animal research facilities and assured that time is also spent conducting continuous training for them.

“We especially value the efforts of all of our researchers who work with animals in helping to ensure the best and most humane care,” Weisenberger said in the email. “We will continue to work with all of you to achieve this goal. The discoveries that you make every day are helping to conquer disease and promote both human and animal health.”

None of the 16 citations from the USDA were considered to be a direct threat to animal safety or welfare, Grabmeier said.

He also said the violations in the inspection were corrected by their due dates, and the two that remained would also be fixed by the dates the USDA requested.

Budkie said that while USDA has not yet begun further investigation, it is required to act on any complaints it receives.

OSU could potentially be fined $10,000 per violation, Budkie said, and SAEN hopes it will be substantial enough to have an impact.

“That kind of a fine is really, in our opinion, necessary to get the attention of a facility like Ohio State because they make so much money,” Budkie said. “I’m sure it can be tens of thousands of dollars in animal experimentation that if the fine is not significant, then they have no reason to be concerned.”

The USDA did not immediately return requests for comment.

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