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An Ohio-based watchdog group has accused the University of Rochester of killing or mistreating dozens of animals in University of Rochester Medical Center labs.
Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN), a nonprofit group that monitors U.S. research facilities for animal abuse and violations of laws, on Thursday claimed it has uncovered animal deaths, animal abuse and research malfeasance, which may have involved more than 100 animals. The group also alleges that the university attempted to cover up the incidents that reportedly occurred in 2016 and 2017.
While University of Rochester Medical Center did not deny the errors, university officials accused SAEN of sensationalizing the mishaps without acknowledging safeguards added to ensure such errors would not be repeated.
The animal welfare group claimed that they learned of the animal deaths through internal correspondence at the university. It was not revealed where at the university the alleged incidents occurred.
Those communications detailed several incidents, including the Nov. 15 discovery of living animals in UR’s “morgue cooler/freezer” and the death of numerous animals via starvation and dehydration, SAEN alleges.
The group also alleges that UR employees failed to provide “adequate post-surgical pain relief to about 80 animals,” according to a news release.
Internal correspondence at UR dated March 2017 discussed “a serious issue of non-compliance” of “not following analgesic therapy in the approved protocol,” and then falsifying records on what was given to the animals.
One year earlier, in March 2016, more internal correspondence outlined how an influenza virus was given to mice without providing required two-week notice, possibly exposing staff and other animals, SAEN alleges.
“The SAEN news release refers to three occasions in 2016 and 2017 when we discovered that some mice had mistakenly been mistreated, errors which are as unacceptable to our researchers as they are to anybody,” University of Rochester Medical Center spokesman Chip Partner said in a printed statement. “Research teams immediately cared for the affected animals, notified the committee and developed corrective action plans that were reviewed and approved by the government agency that oversees animal research.”
Partner said the university and its researchers are dedicated to treating animals “safely and humanely in the studies that research institutions like ours must conduct to find new treatments and cures for diseases that afflict all of us.”
More than 25 years ago, URMC voluntarily established a committee of community representatives, veterinarians and scientists to monitor research and ensure the safety of animals and laboratory staff.
“While sensationalizing our self-reported errors in publicly available reports, SAEN failed to disclose the accompanying documentation of measures we had already taken to address the mistakes and prevent them from happening again,” Partner said.
Michael Budkie, SAEN’s executive director, said the discovery was “shocking” and asked the university for an independent investigation on the matter and to fire employees responsible for the alleged abuse.
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