Watchdog groups call for full USDA open investigation
One of the UC Davis Primate Center’s test-subjects died on Aug. 23 because of failure to close the separating door between the cages of two non-compatible monkeys. This offense follows several other animal safety violations that have occurred in the past year at the Primate Center.
On Sept. 13, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released an official statement of the incident, available to the public upon request.
“On August 23, 2016 two non-compatible non-human primates (NHP) were injured after staff failed to secure and lock a divider door that separated them,” the USDA said in the report. “According to the facility incident report the NHPs (adult male macaques) opened the divider and were found injured when staff returned to the room approximately 20 minutes after shifting animals. Both NHPs received prompt veterinary treatment. One was treated for minor wounds and has since recovered. The second had a significant injury and was promptly euthanized. The staff member involved in the incident has been re-trained. The facility self-reported the incident to officials.”
Watchdog groups across the nation took notice and filed official complaints to the USDA, pushing for an open investigation of the lab. The Center For Ethical Science (CFES) based out of Chicago filed a letter to Dr. Robert Gibbens, director of the Western region of the USDA and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), urging that UC Davis receive the maximum fine of $10,000 per non-compliance.
“[The Primate Center] has violation after violation after violation; it is a criminal lab,” said Jodie Wiederkehr, executive director of CFES. “Pet stores with these same practices would likely be shut down, but when it comes to labs they are fined, then continue to harm and kill animals and the public never really knows. […] Research is important to me, however, animal research is not effective.”
The Primate Center recently came under fire in 2014 for another monkey-related death at the lab. The USDA published an investigative report in 2015 regarding the incident.
“On Aug. 9, 2014, a NHP was injured while being restrained for treatment of a clinical condition,” the USDA said in an official report. “The NHP, a 6-year-old male macaque, was left while on a restraint board in a treatment room during intravenous fluid administration. At some point during treatment the animal chewed through tape restraining his upper body to the board, leaving his legs taped to the board. The animal was found to have a broken leg, was treated, and recovered from the fracture.”
According to Andy Fell, UC Davis associate director of news and media relations, the Primate Center follows strict regulations needed to protect its animals.
“Unfortunately accidents do happen,” Fell said. “Research is strictly regulated. Care of animals is a responsibility that UC Davis takes extremely seriously.”
Ohio watchdog group, Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! (SAEN) also filed a report to the USDA based on the multiple infractions at the UC Davis Primate Center.
“Major violations of the Animal Welfare Act continue to pile up at UC Davis, and these failures to comply with the federal law appear to be fatal almost without exception,” said SAEN co-founder Michael Budkie. “It is pathetic that Davis can’t even manage to follow the law when it is already the target of a federal probe.”
The Primate Center performs cutting-edge research on illnesses such as HIV and the Zika virus, and is home to one of the top research centers for autism nationwide. Truvada, currently the top HIV drug on the market, was developed via resources at the Primate Center. The UC Davis Primate Center is one of only seven in the nation.
Written by: Lindsay Floyd — firstname.lastname@example.org