Published: Friday, December 10, 2010, 11:22 PM ??? Updated: Friday, December 10, 2010, 11:23 PM
A group dedicated to ending abuse of animals in research laboratories has filed federal complaints charging that several animal deaths at Southern Research Institute in 2009 potentially involved negligence, unqualified personnel, improper handling of animals and inadequate veterinary care.
In complaints to the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and to the federal Office of the Inspector General, Michael Budkie, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now, asked the USDA to investigate several deaths of animals listed in Southern Research's annual USDA animal use report, dated Nov. 25, 2009.
Budkie focused on a macaque found dead at Southern Research after its head was caught in the cage, a squirrel monkey found dead after a blood collection, a macaque found dead the morning after receiving a treatment of a "test article" -- the term for things such as a potential drug that is under development -- and two cotton rats found dead without any connection to a test article or any procedure.
"I think those indicate negligence on the part of SRI," Budkie said Friday evening.
Southern Research's Public Relations Manager Rhonda Jung issued a response to the SAEN complaints.
"Southern Research Institute has long conducted important drug research which has contributed to many new medical advances, especially in the areas of cancer and infectious diseases," the written response stated. "The medical research carried out by us and other companies is highly regulated. We follow stringent guidelines and are subject to routine inspections of practices and facilities."
Jung noted that the 2009 animal use report had been submitted as required, and "it was reviewed and discussed, but no further actions were requested."
Her statement concluded, "Meeting or exceeding federal and international standards for best practices in animal care will continue to be a priority for Southern Research."
According to the animal use report, Southern Research in fiscal 2009 used 2,072 laboratory animals that are regulated under the federal Animal Welfare Act. Regulated species used at Southern Research that year were dogs, hamsters, rabbits, non-human primates, ferrets and cotton rats.
Budkie was a co-founder of the SAEN in 1996. The Milford, Ohio, nonprofit keeps tabs on the approximately 1,200 animal research laboratories in the United States by requesting public records through the federal Freedom of Information Act and state open records laws.
Budkie said SAEN would like to see an end to animal research, but said he recognized that federal regulations require testing of pharmaceuticals with animals.
Budkie said about 1.1 million regulated animals are used in research labs each year.
That's a small portion of the total number of animals used each year, he said, because four groups are excluded from the act: rats, mice, birds and amphibians. Animals from those groups, especially rats and mice, probably make up about 90 percent of all animals used in research, he said.
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