USDA fines Vanderbilt for lab animal deaths

Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 7:39pm

The federal government has fined Vanderbilt University for violations to the Animal Welfare Act involving animal deaths at a research facility.

In July, Vanderbilt agreed to pay an $8,156 penalty to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for three citations involving violations dating back to 2008.

In April of that year, an infant galago monkey was found dead in a washing machine after someone from the lab “failed to ensure that all animals were removed from fabric nesting boxes prior to them being washed.”

In September and October 2008, two separate incidents involving administering experimental compounds to hamsters resulted in the death of one hamster and the euthanization of four others.

Michael Budkie, cofounder of Stop Animal Exploitation Now, released a statement Wednesday stating that the university should face stiffer penalties and “the USDA is allowing them to literally get away with murder by issuing such a small fine.”

A USDA inspector for this region was unavailable for comment Wednesday afternoon, but a spokesman for the government agency said generally enforcement actions resulting in monetary fines usually follow investigations into a facility and take prior enforcement history into consideration.

In an emailed statement to The City Paper, John Howser, director of the medical center's Office of News & Communications said, “Vanderbilt University is firmly committed to the highest standards of care and the most humane protocols for all animals necessary to conduct medical research.

“The university devotes significant resources, both in terms of money and manpower, to strict oversight of its animal research program. The incidents in the recent USDA settlement agreement were self-reported by Vanderbilt University to the USDA, and since those incidents, corrective actions, as recommended by the USDA, have been taken.”

Budkie told The City Paper that the fine is just “pocket change” for the university and cited a January inspection report that he said points to continued violations by the university.

A report from an incident last August states that “a dog with an abdominal surgery incision was inappropriately lifted by an employee … [who] picked the dog up by grabbing the skin at the back of its neck with one hand and the skin over its back with the other in order to place it in its cage.”

If a lab or facility can’t “do basic husbandry procedures without killing animals,” Budkie said, it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the medical research being done.

“If they can’t follow basic regulations then that has to cast serious doubt on virtually everything they’re doing.”

11 Comments on this post:

By: skeptic1 on 8/26/10 at 7:06

Except for giving an experimental drug compound to a hamster, these other incidents don't sound like anything a professor would touch. Cleaning cages, not likely. Moving animals in and out of cages, ditto. So that leads me to believe that they probably hired some unqualified lab assistants, possibly students, without any experience or empathy for animals.

By: house_of_pain on 8/26/10 at 7:11

Lab techs don't do that either, skeptic1...other than the hamster issue, it was the fault of animal care techs.

By: budlight on 8/26/10 at 8:04

i care more about people than animals, but i agree with house; it was probably the animal care techs. Everyone knows not to pick up a dog by the scrufff of it's neck. That's what a mother dog does with pups. How sad.

By: brownmm1 on 8/26/10 at 8:16

Murder generally refers to the killing of a person. Anthropomorphizing the killing of these animals demeans humans who have been murdered. I love my pets, and once, as a child, saw a person try and kill my dog for fun by setting him on fire. But it would not have been murder. It would have been an animal killing. Vandy should be more careful - but they self reported their mistakes and accepted reponsibility. The vegan tree hugger should dess in his fig leaf jockey and spend a few nights in the woods cuddling up to some bears and coyotes. That would not be murder, it would be the circle of life......

By: on 8/26/10 at 8:26

Sometimes animal testing provides useful information and sometimes it does not.

At any rate, the greatest care should be taken not to unnecessarily harm animals or people. If the employees did things with careless disregard, they are not being adequately supervised at Vanderbilt.

Paying such a paltry fine probably means little to Vanderbilt, but maybe it will get there attention.

By: JDG on 8/26/10 at 12:15

This Budkie guy has been taking his delusional belief that animals and humans are morally equivelant, and for years has been trying to stop research based on that belief. Time and again it has been shown that the man is either ignorant of the research he is attacking, or is merely a crusader against ALL animal research period. Any means is ok, as long as I get my way, right Mikie?.

By: budlight on 8/26/10 at 2:38

brown, you said " The vegan tree hugger should dess in his fig leaf jockey and spend a few nights in the woods cuddling up to some bears and coyotes. That would not be murder, it would be the circle of life" and you are so right.

If PETA only knew what mountain lions and grizzley's really think of humans! Hmmmmm good meal!

By: chetuno on 8/26/10 at 6:22

So, this is the premier medical research center? They don't even know how to do the laundry without killing a lab animal. Focus on excellence in medicine--get rid of the animal labs.

By: shef2 on 8/26/10 at 11:32

Animal cruelty = Serial Killers. Who do we need to look out for, Vanderbilt-?

By: David_S on 8/27/10 at 8:50

This just shows how low quality the Nashville City Paper is. You take a quote from one radical, PETA-loving tree hugger and treat him with the same validity as the USDA and Vanderbilt. Believe it or not, accidents happen. There are thousands of animals at Vanderbilt being used every day for experiments, so every once in a while, you're going to have slip ups. The important thing is, they self-reported these accidents and have taken all the necessary steps to prevent them in the future.

Budkie is just releasing statements because he opposes animal research all together. And the City Paper shouldn't allow itself to be used as a tool to further his agenda.

By: Mary22 on 8/30/10 at 6:23

Humans come before animals of course- it is incredibly ironic that those that stand up for the animals get slammed in these forums. We would be the first people to run into the burning building to help people then animals caught in the fire. However animals are our responsibility.

Regardless, the USDA and the state vet inspectors, etc. that inspect these places turn a blind eye to blatant cruelty and neglect. I watch paid employees kick, spray down, ignore injuries, forget to feed and water, etc etc. animals entrusted in their care at our public animal control facilities. Think it doesn't happen? Get off the computer and spend an actual day doing it. It will bother anyone with a conscience. No? Then go to our USDA inspected slaghterhouses or puppymills. This isn't about humans being superior to animals- this is about sentient beings experiencing horrendous pain and torture.