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UW-Madison fined $74,000 over care of research animals

UW-Madison fined $74,000 over care of research animals

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A federal agency fined UW-Madison $74,000 in the spring for 28 violations of federal animal research treatment standards.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture assessed the fines for violations accumulated from 2015 to 2019, according to a settlement the university reached with the agency in April.

Many of the violations involved incidents in which monkeys became injured after staff errors or equipment failures allowed animals to exit their cages. At least a dozen animals sustained injuries that required amputations of their fingers, toes or portions of their tongue, including an incident as recent as April 2019.

Other incidents include:

  • Three rhesus monkeys suffered dehydration after their drinking water supply became disconnected in 2015. USDA said the disconnection lasted at least four days, though the university said it was unclear how long the disruption lasted and that the monkeys did not show outward signs of dehydration during daily monitoring by staff. After the water disconnection was discovered, the animals received treatment, but one monkey did not improve and had to be euthanized. Personnel changes were made after the loss, according to the university.
  • In another 2015 incident, a monkey caged with another sustained wounds so deep that part of the animal’s vertebrae became exposed. After receiving medical treatment, a veterinarian returned the monkey to the cage shared with the same animal who caused the injuries. A couple of days later, the monkey was found dead. USDA inspectors issued the citation because they said the earlier injuries provided enough evidence of incompatibility between the monkeys to prevent the animal’s return to the same cage. UW-Madison said its animal care and research staff make “extensive efforts” to safely house and monitor monkeys in groups but occasional injuries may arise.
  • In 2016, three cages of mice went without food for three days, leading one mouse to starve and another having to be euthanized. The loss of the mice led to more stringent record-keeping and increased monitoring of the animals.

Previous fine

PETA, an animal rights group and frequent critic of universities’ practices with animals, said in a statement that UW-Madison shouldn’t be allowed “another chance to harm and kill animals.”

UW-Madison previously paid the USDA a more than $35,000 fine in 2014 for animal research-related violations.

The university has a large animal research program, with about 7,000 people certified to work with animals in nearly 50 facilities.

Reported internally

Most of the problems described in the most recent settlement were immediately reported by campus staff to federal agencies, according to university spokeswoman Kelly Tyrrell. UW-Madison took steps to prevent future violations, including upgrading procedures, equipment and staffing, long before the settlement was reached April 15 and the fine was paid April 29.

“Studying animals is still the only way to answer many crucial questions about how human and animal biology works and how disease affects them, and the best way to develop ways to prevent and treat many of those disorders,” Tyrrell said, adding that UW-Madison is “committed to conducting this research in a responsible and ethical manner.”

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