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Covance Labs Faces Possible Action After 13 Monkeys Die

An Alice, Texas animal research lab may be facing federal penalties after 13 monkeys overheated and died in separate incidents in recent months, according to the Associated Press.

Covance, a New Jersey-based drug development company, reported the incidents to the USDA, stating that the monkeys died after malfunctioning thermostats caused rooms to overheat. A November USDA inspection report doesn't note how hot the rooms got, but explains that temperatures shouldn't exceed 85 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 4 consecutive hours "when non-human primates are present."

The inspection report states that two monkeys died in the first incident, and that "corrective measures were taken [and] override switches were placed in animal rooms."

OK. Great. But then, this: "Approximately one month later, there was another event involving the HVAC system in another room in a different building. An improperly wired thermostat override switch caused a room to overheat, resulting in the deaths of 11 animals." (They were all macaque monkeys).

Hm.

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Have no fear, though -- the same report states that Covance already implemented "corrective measures," including "manually checking all rooms housing animals for correct temperature twice during the night, as well as close monitoring by daytime employees." The facility also "plans to install temperature alarms in all animal housing rooms," which USDA Spokeswoman Tanya Espinosa said would exceed Animal Welfare Act requirements.

"We are looking to see what our next actions are," Espinosa told us. According to the AP story, "Espinosa said USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service must review Covance's compliance history before determining whether to penalize the company. Enforcement action could include a letter of warning, a fine or forwarding the matter to a court that could suspend or revoke the facility's operating license."

Covance told the AP that the company "takes very seriously our ethical and regulatory responsibilities to treat research animals with the utmost care and respect." (A Covance spokeswoman also told the AP that the monkeys were cynomolgus monkeys, also known as macaques).

We just hope these corrective measures stick, unlike the other corrective measures that didn't, and which led to the deaths of 11 additional monkeys. Seems like someone needs to come up with a new definition of "corrective."

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