UTHSC: Animal care complaint 'promptly' addressed
Media Coverage About SAEN Stop Animal Exploitation Now



Dr. Robert Gibbens
Director, Western Region, USDA
[email protected] 
[email protected]

Please levy the MAXIMUM FINE against the University of Tennessee, Memphis, for their blatant disregard of the Animal Welfare Act when their negligence denied euthanasia to at least two pigs. Their behavior should NOT be tolerated and MUST be punished to the fullest extent of the law.


UTHSC: Animal care complaint 'promptly' addressed

From Wayne Risher, DailyMemphian.com, July 15, 2020

A critic of animal-based experiments has taken the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) to task for how baby pigs were treated in a 2019 research project.

Stop Animal Exploitation Now this week called for a U.S. Department of Agriculture investigation, based on findings reported by the medical university's in-house Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee.

The allegations included failure to euthanize two piglets at appropriate times, performing unauthorized procedures and inadequate efforts to train the research team in monitoring the animals' health.

UTHSC said in a statement Tuesday, July 14, the issues raised by the organization were promptly addressed, the research project was terminated, and the principal investigator no longer works for the university.

"The University of Tennessee Health Science Center takes animal welfare in the conduct of biomedical research very seriously. Indeed, there are substantial processes in place to assure the protection of animal welfare and compliance with all federal and state legal requirements," the statement said, in part.

Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN) said it obtained a copy of a May 2, 2019, letter from the UTHSC oversight committee to a USDA regional officer pinpointing alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The research was looking at the impact of varied neo-natal diets on pre-term development.

A press release from the Milford, Ohio organization SAEN said "university lab staff apparently botched the project so severely that university research administration suspended the experiment."

The UTHSC committee's letter said the research was done on more than a dozen piglets that were delivered by cesarean section.

The committee said in one instance, the principal investigator declined to euthanize a piglet on the recommendation of the UTHSC veterinarian. Another piglet wasn't euthanized "despite having reached one of the humane endpoints described in the protocol (i.e. poor skin color)."

The committee spelled out requirements that would have to be met before the research project could resume, and it said corrective actions were in progress.

SAEN executive director Michael A. Budkie wrote to Dr. Robert M. Gibbens, animal welfare operations director for the USDA, on Monday, July 13, 2020, calling for a full investigation of the episode.

The university's statement said the research was terminated because "the remediation steps outlined for the researcher were never achieved. ... The principal investigator is no longer employed by the university. We cannot go into any further details because of privacy and confidentiality restrictions under state and federal law."

The university also said, "Our processes are monitored by personnel devoted to assuring success in meeting our ethical and regulatory requirements. When questions arise about a researcher's compliance with the rules and regulations governing animal research, those issues are promptly investigated.

"When researchers do not comply with the rules and regulations the university takes prompt remedial action, and those researchers are subject to corrective actions and sanctions. Importantly, the university is transparent with the federal government and makes all required reports about such matters to the appropriate federal agency.

"In this case, the report UTHSC made to the federal government (USDA) shows that the university promptly addressed the issue," the statement said. 

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