What the hell is going on with the animals at the University of Texas Medical Branch-Galveston?
Last year, a federal agency's audit found that 12 monkeys injected with a strain of the Marburg virus suffered needlessly, against the study's protocols. And now, KPRC is reporting on a February USDA inspection showing that 19 guinea pigs dropped dead during a study in which — unlike the monkeys — they weren't supposed to die.
That inspection also revealed that a sheep had to be euthanized after it was injured during a transfer, and 12 monkeys were individually caged in enclosures that prevented them from seeing each other, violating a USDA requirement that primates need to be able to see and hear other primates. (We know, from personal experience, that we go absolutely nuts if we wait too long between hilarious YouTube monkey videos.)
The inspection report noted that labs must have an enrichment program in order to "promote the psychological well-being of non-human primates."
The violation was immediately corrected, according to the report.
At research facilities like UTMB-Galveston, studies are overseen by an institutional animal care and use committee, which is supposed to ensure that the studies comply with federal regulations and with the studies' guidelines.
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These guidelines were not followed in studies involving 49 animals, according to the February inspection report, which also states that the animal care committee "identified and addressed" the deviations at the time of the inspection.
In a statement to KPRC, university representatives assured the public, "We take pride in our research endeavors and work diligently to promote scientific integrity and ethical decision-making through transparency."
We fail to see how not following your own research protocols — not to mention federal standards — equals "taking pride." Then again, on the rare occasions that the USDA fines laboratories, the fees are minimal, so there is not much incentive (besides basic human decency) to treat animals well.
We hope, for the animals' sake, UTMB-Galveston's next routine inspection turns out a little better.