Close to a dozen 10 animal-rights activists gathered at the University of Pennsylvania campus yesterday to protest animal research there after officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (which enforces the Animal Welfare Act) investigators discovered that a newborn puppy died there after becoming trapped beneath a kennel floor grate and that three gerbils perished due to dehydration from “unsuitable sipper tubes.”
Inspectors also found “algae growing in the dirty drinking water of four horses, two dogs with paw cysts their caretakers hadn’t detected and a dirty pen where 15 heifers had to stand in excrement to feed,” according to a report in the Philadelphia Daily News.
“It’s not only a tragedy that animals are dying totally unnecessarily; it’s also very troubling that a huge university that receives tens of millions of dollars in federal funding for animal experimentation can’t even make sure animals receive adequate water,” said Michael A. Budkie, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now, an Ohio-based group that organized the protest, held on a small plaza on the southeast corner of 34th and Walnut Streets in Philadelphia.
According to Phyllis Holtzman, spokeswoman for Penn, “97% of the animals at the University lab are mice and rats bred and raised for research “aimed at finding treatments and cures for some of the most vexing diseases of our time, for both humans and animals.” She also told reporters that all violations had been corrected. “We are continually working to improve our animal-care programs with the goal to eliminate any shortcomings that occur and prevent them from recurring,” she said.
However, Budkie’s group was not buying it and complained that the University should have been fined for the violations, and even called for an end to financing for their animal testing. “It would be a better use of funding to put those millions of dollars into health care for human beings now,” Budkie said. “I don’t want to base my safety or my health on the results of the research of a university that can’t follow basic laws.”
Here in Connecticut, the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) is charged with overseeing and reviewing the University of Connecticut’s program for humane care and use of animals used in biomedical research, testing and education. This includes inspecting animal housing facilities and study areas; for reviewing and approving, requiring modifications (to secure approval) or withholding approval of proposed activities or of significant changes in activities relating to the care and use of animals; and, if necessary, for suspending activities involving animals. In its deliberations, the IACUC is guided by Federal and state regulations and policies set forth in the “Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (PHS 1986), the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (ILAR 1996) and the USDA Animal Welfare Regulations (CFR 1985).
Editor’s note: Penn is currently the second-largest recipient of National Institutes of Health funding.