UTMB Pays Fine in Animal Welfare Act Allegations

Three University of Texas Medical Branch-Galveston employees have been fired, and the university has agreed to pay $9,143 relating to allegations of Animal Welfare Act violations.

Under the settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the university did not admit or deny any wrongdoings in what the USDA stated were violations resulting in a goat dying while under anesthesia and failure to give three sheep post-operative pain medication. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which brought the incidents to light after hearing from a whistleblower, claims that a records review shows that one of the sheep had been "subjected to tracheostomy, third degree burns over 20 percent of her body, and smoke [inhalation]," as well as "wound excision and a skin graft."

University spokesman Raul Reyes told Hair Balls that university investigators acted immediately to address the issues, and, in addition to the three terminations, "We have enhanced the training of people who actually take care of the animals, to make sure that they understand what they're supposed to do, what records they're supposed to keep, and what procedures [they're] supposed to follow, and also, if they were to notice anything out of the ordinary, that they are to immediately report it."

He said, "We are very, very hopeful that these measures will continue to result in good medical research that [helps] people and, quite frankly, animals....Nobody here condones, approves the abuse or torture of any animals. We just don't do that."

PETA's Laboratory Oversight Specialist, Alka Chandna, told us in an e-mail that "PETA attempted to work quietly with the university to have the animal welfare incidents addressed. UTMB President David Callender ignored the multiple e-mails and phone messages left by PETA Senior VP Kathy Guillermo. In January 2011, PETA went public with the allegations of abusive treatment...and filed a formal complaint with the USDA."

Reyes said PETA alleged 23 violations, but the USDA only fined the university for three; a fourth claim had been self-reported.

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