UF cited in research cat deaths
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Dr. Robert Gibbens
Director, Western Region, USDA
[email protected]
[email protected]

Please levy the MAXIMUM FINE against University of Florida for their blatant disregard of the Animal Welfare Act when their negligence killed four cats. Their behavior should NOT be tolerated and MUST be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

UF cited in research cat deaths

From Sarah Nelson, Gainesville.com, August 27, 2020

The federal government has issued a citation against the University of Florida after school officials reported four research cats were wrongly euthanized last year following a lab procedure.

The cats, the UF’s office of research wrote in a report to the United States Department of Agriculture, underwent a ‘non-survival’ bone marrow and blood draw surgery in April 2019 and were euthanized after. The lab technicians, the report states, also used improper sedatives and painkillers.

UF Research officials wrote the surgery was not approved as a non-survival procedure, where the research animals do not subsequently live. The cats were also sedated with high doses of ketamine and acepromazine, when protocol called for bupivacaine to mitigate pain.

The citation said bupivacaine serves as a local anesthetic to minimize an animal's pain during the particular bone marrow collection, whereas ketamine and acepromazine act more as a sedative.

Initial medical records written after the procedure said the cats were given proper sedation, but a week later, principal investigators found the medication deviated from protocol.

“By not following the approved protocol, a research animal may experience greater pain or distress than was justified to or approved by the IACUC (Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee),” said the July 28 USDA citation.

The "critical" citation from the federal agency is the first of its kind for UF, according to USDA research inspection records dating to 2014. The school was issued two "non-critical" citations after its inspection report last year, after lab personnel used wound clips versus skin staples on a ewe.

In 2016-2018, the USDA found UF compliant in its annual inspections.

The newest citation has grabbed the attention of animal rights organization Stop Animal Exploitation Now.

“It’s bad enough doing a fairly invasive procedure without any pain relief,” said Michael Budkie, executive director and co-founder of SAEN. “That indicates a certain level of lack of familiarity with the protocol. But there is no reason cats can’t live on after that procedure is performed.”

The Ohio-based group, which advocates for the end of animal research, said the incident shows a lack of supervision among lab personnel, and demands UF pay $10,000 per animal for the euthanizations, the maximum fine allowable under the Animal Welfare Act.

UF spokesman Steve Orlando said the the university's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee took immediate action to correct the incident prior to the USDA's involvement, and suspended the studies.

"We take seriously the importance of creating and sustaining a culture of compliance, and we work at every level to ensure that culture is the foundation of all University of Florida research," he wrote in a statement.

In its report to the USDA, university officials said the IACUC ordered that principal investigators ensure anesthesia protocol is strictly being followed by lab staff, that standard operating procedure checklists are followed before each procedure and that lab personnel retake training on how to handle pain in lab animals.

Investigators and lab personnel were also told to ensure all procedures and drugs given to research cats in the future are approved. Animal care technicians must also be retrained in documentation and record-keeping in future procedures involving cats.

UF researchers said the corrective measures were completed in November.

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