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Watchdog SAEN Demands USDA Fine for Vanderbilt and Releases Government Reports Exposing Lab Violations

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SAEN, a national research watchdog organization, is demanding that the United States Department of Agriculture launch legal proceedings against Vanderbilt University for laboratory violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

USDA inspection reports reveal that Vanderbilt’s research laboratories have broken federal law at least 49 times in recent months - up 54 percent in about one year, with many repeat violations.

“The violations at this facility are serious, they jeopardize both the welfare of the thousands of animals experimented on annually within this facility and the safety of humans whose health is potentially influenced by improperly performed medical research,” said Michael A. Budkie, A.H.T., Executive Director of the Cincinnati-based, non-profit SAEN in a letter to Dr. Elizabeth Goldentyer of USDA/APHIS/AC.

A national report released by SAEN reveals that violations of federal laws by laboratories have risen more than 90 percent in the last five years, and at Vanderbilt violations climbed 54 percent in just one year.

The Animal Welfare Act allows for a $2500 fine for each infraction, leading to the potential for a $47,000 fine for Vanderbilt.

“The multiple violations by Vanderbilt’s Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee, the use of unqualified personnel, violations of standards for veterinary care, reporting, housing/enclosures, environmental enhancement for primates and even in such basic areas as feeding and sanitation make it obvious that the supervisory staff of this lab have nothing but contempt for federal laws,” added Budkie.

In a related incident, on June 28, SAEN filed an Official Complaint (USDA 07/207) against the University of Wisconsin, Madison based on recently obtained internal UW records.

UW reports reveal abuses in which primates are allegedly dying with brain infections sufficient to have liquefied the cerebrum. One primate allegedly died with a foreign object lodged in the intestinal tract, while another was allegedly killed during preparation for surgery when an endotracheal tube tore the monkey's throat, according to internal lab reports obtained by SAEN.

"UW documents reveal a stunning pattern of possible negligence, inadequate veterinary care, unqualified staff and deceit," said Michael A. Budkie, A.H.T., Executive Director, SAEN. "These documents clearly demonstrate that the University of Wisconsin, Madison is continuing a long-term pattern of flaunting federal regulations which are clearly spelled out in the Animal Welfare Act (AWA)."

Other primates at the UW allegedly died with severe cases of pneumonia, as well as full-thickness ulcerations of the skin. In many instances these conditions were allegedly the result of devices implanted into the spinal chords of the deceased monkeys. Other monkeys died with meningitis which resulted from 'headcaps' which had been attached to the skull, Budkie says.

"The practice of experimenting and performing surgical procedures upon chronically ill monkeys is not only extremely cruel to the animals, but also very bad science," added Budkie. "The UW is wasting tens of millions of U.S. tax dollars by experimenting on sick animals."

The SAEN complaint, addressed to Dr. Elizabeth Goldentyer of the US Department of Agriculture on June 25, 2007, asks that the USDA "immediately implement proceedings to investigate the University of Wisconsin for potential violations of the AWA."

Federal legislation has recently been introduced which would increase potential penalties for violations such as those at the University of Wisconsin. HR 2193, the Animal Protection Accountability Improvement Act, would quadruple the potential fine for Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations from $2500 to $10,000.

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill Magazine, the Huffington (more...)

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