A lab monkey was found dead in March after staff at MD Anderson accidentally left it in a cage that was then run through an industrial washer, according to a federal inspection report.
The report, which is publicly available but buried in the USDA's new haphazard online system, was shared with the Houston Press by PETA.
No cause of death for the owl monkey could be determined because of the condition of the remains, and "it is unknown if the animal was alive prior to entering the cage wash," the March 28 report states.
The Centers for Disease Control guidelines state that cage washers should "have a final rinse temperature of at least 180 degrees Fahrenheit."
In an email, Alka Chandna, PETA's chief of laboratory case management, called for the firing of MD Anderson staff that left the monkey in the cage, stating, "Last year, the facility received nearly $125 million from our government, but its employees apparently are not even capable of checking inside a cage to see who might be in it."
In an emailed statement, MD Anderson told the Press:
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“The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center is committed to the safety and welfare of its animal population, and we deeply regret this tragic event. We take events of this nature with utmost concern and immediately reported it to the appropriate agencies. Procedures were in place to appropriately and effectively meet the requirements of federal regulations; however, they were not followed in this instance. Based on this event, additional measures have been instituted to further enhance our safety efforts.”
The monkey had apparently remained in a "nesting box" inside the cage, and was overlooked after its cagemates were "transferred to clean enclosures," according to the report. The resulting "corrective actions" included employee retraining, and adding steps to the cleaning procedure — such as "opening cage doors during transport to cage wash, a closer check of the nest box, and a final check of the entire cage by the cage wash attendant." (It's unclear what the policy looked like before these seemingly commonsense steps were added.)
Chandna also added that "MD Anderson has previously been cited for expired medications and experimenters' failure to justify the number of animals they had used in an experiment, as required by law. In 2008, MD Anderson was fined $3,000 after PETA filed a complaint with officials over the shooting death of a chimpanzee named Tony who had escaped from the laboratory."
The inspection report doesn't state the nature of the testing done on owl monkeys, but MD Anderson press releases have touted the institution's use of monkeys in treating obesity, and for research in treating breast cancer, Chagas and the Zika virus.