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March 12, 2010

The HSUS Highlights Animal Research Violations at University of Minnesota

Group urges university to adopt policy prohibiting severe animal suffering

The Humane Society of the United States has obtained government reports showing that the University of Minnesota has violated federal standards of care for animals in laboratories. Violations included failing to properly administer pain-relieving medicine, failing to provide adequate veterinary care and failing to properly euthanize animals. The improperly euthanized animals remained alive but were discarded as if they were dead.

The HSUS learned of the violations through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's online inspection reports and documents in response to a Freedom of Information Act request to the National Institutes of Health's Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare.

"The public doesn't want animals to suffer gratuitously in research laboratories," said Martin Stephens, Ph.D., vice president of animal research issues for The HSUS. "University of Minnesota should publicly affirm its commitment to minimizing the suffering of animals in its research labs."

The HSUS urges the University of Minnesota to join other institutions in adopting a policy ensuring that no animals in its laboratories experience severe and unrelieved suffering.

Timeline

According to an inspection report filed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture

May 2009: During an inspection, a dead rabbit was found in a cage. Although the animal had been previously observed showing signs of illness, staff failed to report the illness to a veterinarian so that the rabbit could be treated or euthanized to avoid suffering. The facility was cited for inadequate veterinary care.

According to reports made by the university to NIH's Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare

April 2009: A litter of live, newborn mice was found in a disposal container after failure to check that the animals were dead after euthanasia procedures.

2008-2009: Animals were not given proper painkillers following pain-inducing procedures, in at least five incidents. 

July 2006: Two live rats were found in plastic bags in a carcass cooler after an apparent failed attempt at carbon dioxide euthanasia.

April 2005: Twenty turkeys died after a room temperature control malfunctioned. The malfunction set off two alarms, but staff failed to respond to them. Temperatures reached 145 degrees in one room and 168 degrees in another.

Background

  • In September 2009, The HSUS sent a letter to University of Minnesota asking them to adopt a policy that the animals in their laboratories would not be subjected to research or conditions that would cause severe and unrelieved pain or distress. In January 2010, The HSUS sent a second letter including nearly 1,500 signatures of students, parents, alumni, faculty and members of the public in support of the university adopting such a policy. To date, the university has not responded to our requests.  
  • The USDA regulates research on some animal species under the Animal Welfare Act. The Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare ensures that the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals is followed by institutions receiving federal funds for animal research. However, federal law does allow animal research involving severe and unrelieved pain and distress. Therefore, following federal law is not enough to prevent severe animal suffering.
  • Fifty-five U.S. colleges and universities have affirmed to The HSUS that they have policies preventing severe and unrelieved animal pain and distress. These institutions include James Madison University (Harrisonburg, Va.), Alabama A&M University (Normal, Ala.), Ithaca College (Ithaca, N.Y.), Cardinal Stritch University (Milwaukee) and St. Joseph's University (Philadelphia), among others.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.

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