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Animal deaths prompt call for UCSF researchers to stop animal testing

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A pig and two voles, a rodent similar to a mouse, died following unapproved procedures conducted by UCSF staff. (Courtesy photo)

An animal rights group accusing UC San Francisco research staff of protocol breaches is calling for researchers connected to incidents in which at least three laboratory animals have died to be banned from animal testing.

In a letter penned to UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood on Wednesday, Ohio-based group SAEN (Stop Animal Exploitation Now) demanded administrative action against researchers involved in procedures that resulted in the death of one pig and two voles, a rodent similar to a mouse.

“We feel that in the two instances …[the researchers] flouted the authority of the UCSF administration that they should no longer be allowed to perform experiments on animals,” Michael Budkie, the group’s co-founder, said Wednesday.

The group is pressing the UCSF administration for action following a routine visit of U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors to UCSF labs on July 26, during which the animals’ deaths were noted. The inspectors reviewed reports compiled by UCSF’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) and found that three UCSF principal investigators carried out procedures “that did not conform to their approved protocols.”

A statement published by UCSF about the violations notes the university’s own veterinarians and other staff first documented the incidents, and that “all three principal investigators who conducted these unapproved procedures had already received corrective actions from the IACUC before the July 26 inspection.”

According to the USDA inspection report, a pig was euthanized in July following a steam ablation procedure, an alternative to surgery, after its gallbladder was infused with 50 times the amount of steam allowed.

In a second incident, two voles were euthanized after an unapproved cranial surgery.

“It’s like someone driving a car — if they get a DUI and killed someone, they would not be allowed to drive a car again,” Budkie said. “They failed to follow the law, they caused unnecessary deaths.”

In August, SAEN filed a complaint with the USDA asking that the maximum allowable fine — $10,000 per infraction per animal — be issued against the university.

Andre Bell, a spokesperson for USDA’s Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service, which is tasked with citing facilities for noncompliance with the federal standards, said the department is aware of the complaint.
“We take this very seriously and we are looking into the allegations,” he said.

A UCSF spokesperson could not confirm whether Hawgood was aware of the group’s call for a permanent ban on animal testing by the three principal investigators involved in the incidents.

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