Animal research watchdog group calls for end of UConn research that violated protocols
Media Coverage About SAEN Stop Animal Exploitation Now

ACTION ALERT:

Contact:

Susan Herbst, President
University of Connecticut
[email protected]

SAMPLE MESSAGE:

President Herbst,

You must immediately terminate the protocol associated with grant NS098091. The staff associated with this project deliberately withheld pain relief from animals and also falsified veterinary records. Heinous behavior such as this should result in termination of this experiment and returning all funding to the federal government.

Animal research watchdog group calls for end of UConn research that violated protocols

From Kathleen Megan, Courant.com, November 13, 2018

An animal research watchdog group is calling for the termination of a UConn research project which the university has said was not in compliance with approved protocols.

The group, called “Stop Animal Exploitation Now,” is urging the permanent termination of the project and the return of more than $424,000 in federal funding.

In April, UConn’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee voted to suspend the research based on reports that student surgeons had been directed to withhold pre-operative pain-killers from mice and to provide a small dose of pain relief after surgery “only if the mice appeared to be in pain,” according to a letter from Wesley G. Byerly, UConn’s associate vice president for research integrity and regulatory affairs.

“It is not clear how student surgeons were instructed to assess pain in a … post-surgical mouse,” Byerly said in the April 26 letter which was sent to the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare with the National Institutes of Health.

Byerly said an investigation followed that showed that analgesia records from February through April 2018 that had stated that a dose of a painkiller had never been given were retroactively altered to show that full doses had been administered.

The letter said that the principal investigator on the research said that in Feb. 2018, she enacted a protocol change to withhold surgical and at times post-surgical doses of painkillers due to a series of unexpected mice deaths.

Byerly said the principal investigator enacted these changes without an approved modification.

UConn has not released the name of the principal investigator, citing a 2014 Supreme Court ruling upheld in 2016 that UConn Health was justified in withholding animal researchers’ names if, as provided by Freedom of Information law, there are reasonable grounds to believe disclosure might result in a safety risk.

In a letter to UConn President Susan Herbst, Michael Budkie, a co-founder of Stop Animal Exploitation Now, said “the deliberate failure to utilize approved analgesia is heinous. This is nothing short of intentionally causing unnecessary pain and suffering in animals.”

Budkie said the failure to administer painkillers and the alteration of records demonstrates “willful and intentional violations of regulations, as well as an effort to escape oversight by intentionally falsifying records.

“The withholding of pain relief was not accidental, it was intentional,” Budkie wrote. “The falsification of records was not accidental, it was intentional.”

Byerly responded to Budkie’s letter saying that “UConn conducted a full review and reported its findings to the appropriate regulatory organizations “in a timely and candid manner.”

Byerly said that UConn imposed a series of consequences, including suspending the research and requiring supervision, imposing strict retraining requirements, and mandating a detailed written improvement plan and other steps.

In a letter dated May 9, Byerly wrote again to the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare at the National Institutes of Health, stating that those requirements had been met, the suspension had been lifted, and the principal investigator had been notified that she could resume research.

UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said the university “takes compliance matters very seriously, and has been recognized by its national accrediting agency for what it has called an exemplary program.”

She said that UConn’s report to the regulatory agencies “reflect one rare but unfortunate instance. UConn’s high standards in operating its research enterprise allowed the university to quickly discover, investigate, and address the issues at hand.”

She said the university did not have to repay any federal grant money in the matter.

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