UF under scrutiny for alleged unethical animal treatment since ‘11

Negotiation is Over - Florida

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by Chabeli Herrera (Independent Alligator)

Twenty-two goats, one rabbit and one puppy have died as a result of negligent care on behalf of UF, according to a complaint issued Monday by animal rights group Stop Animal Exploitation NOW.

In two complaints issued to the U.S. Department of Agriculture since August, Stop Animal Exploitation NOW details several incidents beginning in 2011 that violated the Animal Welfare Act.

“We believe the public has a right to know what goes on in those laboratories,” said executive director Michael Budkie.

The first report, filed by UF in January 2012, involves the death of 22 goats due to severe anemia.In the 2011 incident, staff and graduate students performing studies on the goats failed to treat or euthanize them after the study was completed.

As a result, three died spontaneously and 19 were subsequently euthanized.

In another report, filed by the university in October 2012, a New Zealand white rabbit was found dead hanging out of its cage door after it wedged itself between the bars due to fear from a fire alarm.

In the most recent complaint, Stop Animal Exploitation NOW cites a May 2013 UF report documenting a veterinary technician who neglected to administer appropriate treatment to a dog diagnosed with glaucoma.

Although the UF-prescribed treatment was intended to be daily, the veterinary technician failed to deliver it as instructed.

The technician was suspended and resigned before the completion of the investigation.

The Stop Animal Exploitation NOW complaint further details a May 2012 USDA inspection, which found that a beagle puppy was not fed properly and was then euthanized due to severe weight loss.

UF reported the incidents to the National Institute of Health, however, Budkie said the institute doesn’t have the power to fine UF for deaths.

Stop Animal Exploitation NOW hopes the USDA will take action against UF and fine the university $10,000 per infraction.

“What we are seeing here is a long-term pattern of failure to follow what are really very basic federal regulations,” Budkie said.

“Why should we believe that they are capable of doing science? What does that say about how everything else is being done?” he added.

UF has been under fire before. In a 2013 complaint issued by animal rights group Eleventh Hour for Animals, a macaque monkey wasn’t treated for a broken hip and was then euthanized in 2010.

“There’s a great deal of carelessness,” said Eleventh Hour for Animals founder Camille Marino.

She said she is glad these infractions are coming to light but suspects worse issues are at play.

“I am so unconcerned about these minor welfare violations because it gives people the impression that the other 99 percent of what they are doing is humane,” Marino said.

He continued, “Nothing could be further from the truth. The experiments that they are doing within the guidelines of the law are far more heinous and disturbing than any of these violations.”

UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes wrote in an email that the university “took appropriate measures to prevent reocurrences, which may have included additional training, updating protocols and disciplining employees or students.”

UF’s animal care and use program has been accredited since 1966, and “UF veterinarians oversee animal care and strive to always provide a healthy, safe environment for the animals,” according to the statement.

Still, Budkie, who has filed several successful complaints in the last year, said he wants to see the negligence pattern come to an end.

“This facility should face serious consequences for the deaths of these animals,” he said in a press release. “It’s clear that the UF officials who are responsible for supervising animal experiments are not doing their jobs.”

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