The University of Louisiana at Lafayette has agreed to pay $100,000 to settle six complaints about its primate laboratory. Under the settlement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the university does not admit any wrongdoing at its New Iberia Research Center.
Lab workers broke one monkey’s arm in 2013 but didn’t check it for five days, and another monkey died that year from a brain hemorrhage after injuring its hand between its cage and another structure, according to a March 2015 complaint from USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The research center had reported most of the incidents to the agency, and they “occurred as part of routine housing and care of nonhuman primates,” university spokeswoman Kathleen Thames said.
Michael Budkie, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now, said he thinks the fine is the fifth largest ever levied against an animal laboratory by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The largest was $3.5 million last year against a California site owned by Dallas-based Santa Cruz Biotechnology Inc., he said.
It is hard to tell whether $100,000 was the maximum possible against the New Iberia lab, he said. “Folks at USDA have told me the maximum is $10,000 per infraction per animal,” but the complaint doesn’t make clear how many animals were involved in several complaints, he said.
The agreement was made public Friday on the USDA website. It was signed May 8, Budkie said.
The university paid $60,000 to settle previous complaints that the lab violated the Animal Welfare Act, including almost $38,600 paid in 2013 after three monkeys died, Budkie has said. It also paid $18,000 in 2010 to settle allegations that included improper animal handling, and $2,000 in 2007, after 55 rhesus monkeys escaped.
The most recent complaint, addressed in the current settlement, was from June 2014. The USDA said an experiment was approved without the lead researcher’s written assurance that it did not unnecessarily duplicate earlier work.
The macaque whose arm was broken was in a “squeeze restraint,” a cage with one panel that can be moved inward to immobilize a monkey for transport or medical procedures, according to the complaint. It said that although the adult “resisted by holding her right arm against the cage and curling her body over her infant’s,” hiding her arms and legs from view, workers continued to move the panel inward in March 2013.
The monkey’s arm was trapped between the side of the cage and the squeeze mechanism, the agency said. The failure to check her arm for five days was listed as a separate complaint.
The lab also was accused of failing to clean African green monkeys’ perches of dirt and debris in September 2012, and housing capuchin monkeys in unsecure cages so that five got out by removing the “latch clips” on their doors in January 2013.
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Story by Janet McConnaughey.