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Davis, California

Thursday, April 18, 2024

UC Davis faces inspections, negligence allegations by USDA


Investigators find that improper research protocol, veterinary care has injured, killed multiple animals

UC Davis animal testing laboratories and veterinarian facilities have been the recent subject of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspections and investigations into animal deaths, injuries and forced euthanizations.

UC Davis animal testing laboratories and facilities currently hold 30 dogs, 419 cats, six guinea pigs, 59 hamsters, 315 rabbits, 125 sheep, 90 pigs, 2,117 other farm animals and 2,719 non-human primates for research purposes. Investigations found that animals have been killed or forcibly euthanized as a result of experiments or inadequate care in 2016 and in past years. Other inspections challenge the cleanliness and quality of animal enclosures.

“The most recent citation is because an animal escaped, was injured and was euthanized because UC Davis staff couldn’t be trusted to close up an enclosure to ensure the animal couldn’t get out,” said Michael Budkie, co-founder and executive director of watchdog group Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN), referencing a recent non-human primate forced euthanization. “Repeat citations for such basic operations have to call into question the competence of the staff at UC Davis. If they can’t close a cage door correctly, why should we believe they can do science?”

After this incident, Andy Fell, associate director of news and media relations, said the staff member responsible for leaving the enclosure open has been properly retrained.

This is not the first time UC Davis has been under fire due to questionable practices with regards to animal care.

In 2006, llamas’ pens were found with dust, sediment and a film of algae in the water, which can breed harmful microorganisms. Six years later, a lamb died after being fallen on by a 233-pound ewe during transportation — the result of an inadequately small cage. That same year, a dog died while playing with another dog, both owned by the School of Veterinary Medicine, likely by accidental strangulation from the other dog biting its collar while unsupervised by staff.

Researchers have also been cited for performing unnecessary surgery on ewes in order to discover pregnancy, due to claims that less invasive methods were too expensive.

According to a 2016 USDA inspection report, a rabbit that was not properly tranquilized before an experiment had to be euthanized.

Michael Budkie said the university should lose its federal funding because of the violations.

“Some of the research they do has nothing to do about human medicine,” Budkie said. “It’s about bringing in the $40 million a year [in federal grants]. The writing’s on the wall for animal research. Currently, we don’t need animal research. We have cell technology and computer simulation now. Use of animals in science is old science, and UC Davis has no use for it anymore academically.”

However, there are still others, like Fell, who believe that animal testing has scientific value.

“Animal research benefits human health and is strictly regulated by law,” Fell said. “There are unannounced inspections by the USDA that we are not notified about previously.”

Denisse Valencia, second-year clinical nutrition major, was displeased to learn about these allegations of animal mistreatment at the university she attends.

“It breaks my heart,” Valencia said.

In addition to its other animal testing and veterinary centers, UC Davis also houses the California National Primate Center (CNPRC), which wields autism and Zika virus breakthroughs thanks to tests on animals.

According to Fell, every investigation by the USDA has been closed or corrected. However, Budkie holds a different view.

“When the USDA says that they have an open investigation, this doesn’t just mean they are looking for something,” Budkie said. “They are looking for the purpose of prosecuting.”


Written by: Aaron Liss — campus@theaggie.org


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