USDA investigates complaint about two monkeys' deaths at WFBMC

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Please contact the USDA to insist on a major fine for Wake Forest University for the negligence which killed 2 primates.

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USDA investigates complaint about two monkeys' deaths at WFBMC

By John Hinton, Winston-Salem Journal, Friday, February 28, 2014

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is investigating a complaint about the deaths last year of two research monkeys at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

A rhesus monkey died in August 2013 after becoming entangled in a chain attached to a device that provided food for the animal, according to a Wake Forest Baptist document.

The monkey had pulled the chain into its cage.

A cynomolgus monkey died in January 2013 of complications of diabetes, another document says.

The medical center reported both deaths to the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare at the National Institutes of Health, said Nicole Garbarini, an office spokeswoman.

Stop Animal Exploitation NOW, a national research watchdog organization in Milford, Ohio, filed a complaint on Feb. 17 to the USDA about the animals’ deaths. SAEN wants to the Agriculture Department to fine Wake Forest Baptist $20,000 for violating the federal Animal Welfare Act in the monkeys’ deaths.

“Wake Forest University has demonstrated a clear pattern of incompetence that has killed two monkeys,” said Michael Budkie, SAEN’s executive director.

The latest complaint comes about a year after the Agriculture Department fined Wake Forest Baptist $35,464 for violations of the Animal Welfare Act in connection with the medical center’s animal-research procedures. The medical center paid the fine.

The USDA investigated eight events that occurred at Wake Forest Baptist from 2009 to 2012. One of those events was the escape of a female monkey from a university research center near Clemmons in late June 2012.

The monkey was recovered unharmed in a saga that attracted national news coverage and inspired parodies on Twitter and Facebook. The 8-pound macaque escaped from the Wake Forest University Primate Center on June 29, 2012. The monkey opened a latch on her cage, then managed to open a chain-link fence and get out of the center.

It roamed the woods and neighborhoods of southern Forsyth and northern Davidson counties for 11 days before Lexington police capture her in the backyard of a house on Frye Bridge Road.

The staff at the primate center installed a chain with a secure latch to the center’s outside corridors to prevent further escapes, the medical center said at that time.

Regarding the monkey deaths, Wake Forest Baptist said it immediately reported them to the federal Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare and that the medical center’s actions in these cases weren’t the result of incompetence or negligence.

The staff at Wake Forest Baptist modified the device to prevent any future deaths, the hospital said.

Budkie maintained that the second monkey, who was diabetic, died after suffering from extremely low blood sugar when the medical center’s staff failed to feed it an afternoon meal. Wake Forest Baptist said that its investigation determined that the monkey was fed before it died.

“Unfortunately, as with diabetic humans, monkeys also succumb to complications due to diabetes,” the medical center said. 

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