By: BRENDA MILLER
asserted that they are currently in accord with all state regulations
concerning animal welfare after Stop Animal Exploitation Now, an
Ohio-based animal rights organization, accused the University of
committing 27 state-regulation violations. According to SAEN, the
University research laboratory has violated the Animal Welfare Act, a
series of laws set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture along with the
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
SAEN released a report, titled "Breaking the Law: Animal Care in U.S.
Labs," which looks at animal rights violations during the past three
years at 25 research laboratories. Pitt was ranked as having the ninth
highest number of violations.
"Corrective action in relation to these infractions detailed by SAEN
was promptly taken," University officials said in a response statement.
The response went on to say that the federal government has not fined
the University in regards animal research programs since 1987.
Michael Budkie, executive director of SAEN and author of the report,
said information gathered from USDA inspection reports described
violations that included the use of expired drugs, housing of 35-inch
primates in 32-inch cages and unnecessary isolation of disease-free
primates, among others.
In May 2003, a USDA report discovered that an experiment that
restricted and controlled the water intake of four primates failed to
recognize "rudimentary signs of dehydration." According to the report,
the problem was corrected immediately, though it remains a major concern
Dr. Randy Juhl, vice chancellor of research conduct and compliance,
argued that most of the information SAEN gathered was from the
University's own reports.
"This is a good example of how an organization can use a little fact
and twist it to serve their particular purpose," he said.
"[SAEN's] goal is to have no animal experimentations," he said. "Our
goal is to have animal experimentations within the rules and regulation
to make medical advances."
Juhl said the advances made by the University labs, such as the polio
vaccine and progress in organ transplantation and cardiopulmonary
resuscitation, relied heavily on animal experimentation.
"It's important to keep in context the importance of animal
subjects," he said.
"If you count the little violations, 27 is not a number that concerns
me at all, considering there are 1,000 people working on these things,"
he added. "We don't consider [the violations] trivial. We take care of
them and fix them."
Budkie said 27 violations in three years is a number that should not
be taken lightly. Though the report only mentioned 25 research
facilities while 57 were actually examined, many had no violations at
all, he said.
SAEN reported that during the same three-year period, Pitt had 2,341
regulated animals, while Pfizer, a pharmaceutical corporation, had
19,106 regulated animals but only 12 violations. Wake Forest, which was
ranked last of the 25 labs, had 2,296 animals and seven violations.
"The Animal Welfare Act is minimal standards, and [Pitt] can't even
follow those when rats, birds, mice and fish are not even covered," said
Candace Zawoiski, a member of the Voices of Animal Liberation group in
While a goal of SAEN is to end animal experimentation, Budkie hopes
to start with eliminating duplicate experiments. Michaela Finkelstein, a
member of the Pitt branch of VAL, agreed.
"Of course I want to see the advancement of science, but we need to
be careful not to repeat experiments," she said. She said she would
ultimately like to see an end to all animal research.
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