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.”