By Aadit Tambe
Stop Animal Exploitation NOW, an Ohio-based nonprofit that aims to end the use of animals in lab testing, has filed a complaint against the University of Iowa, claiming at least 244 animals have died due to negligence in lab testing.
The organization filed a Freedom of Information Act to obtain the information, said Michael Budkie, the executive director of of the group.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a violation against the UI in February 2016, stating, “Handling of all animals shall be done as expeditiously and carefully as possible in a manner that does not accuse trauma, overheating, excessive cooling, behavioral stress, physical harm, or unnecessary discomfort.”
This complaint came after an investigation conducted by the animal group that accused the UI of killing ferrets in lab testing.
A release from the group release claimed that apart from the deaths, more animals had suffered severe abuse including food deprevation and improper medical condition.
The animal organization also sent a document to UI President Bruce Harreld, insisting on an independent investigation and termination of those responsible for the alleged negligence and abuse.
“We monitor [institutes that] receive millions of dollars in grants closely,” Budkie said. “[These are] serious noncompliances, and we [want] to make the universities to change the [processes] that are noncompliant.”
Three projects were cited for unexpected deaths following surgical procedures, two projects were flagged for lack of pain relief, and one was cited for performing an unapproved procedure, the document to the UI said.
“The University of Iowa takes the health and safety of animals in its care seriously, for ethical reasons and because they are valuable resources in the effort to develop new treatments for a range of health conditions and diseases, including cancer, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, macular degeneration, and many others,” said Stephen Pradarelli, the strategic communications director for the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development, in an email to The Daily Iowan.
These deaths were unnecessary and could have been avoided easily, Budkie said.
“[Stop Animal Exploitation] not just wants appropriate treatment of animals in the lab but aims to end the use of animals in testing,” he said.
Unfortunately, adverse events sometimes occur because of mechanical failures, human error, or for other reasons, Pradarelli said,
“In each of the incidents cited, including one involving 200 fish affected by water-quality issues, the University of Iowa’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee took immediate action when it learned about the situation; investigated the circumstances; mandated (as appropriate) retraining, protocol changes, and/or equipment modifications … as required by the agency,” he said.
There are several ways to conduct experiments in which animals can be avoided such as tissue response or using virtual reality, Budkie said.
The group demands that the UI launch an independent investigation of the its animal-experimentation practices by panel of experts in animal rights, and that the UI terminated all staff responsible for the incidents that led to the death of animals.