Pitt researchers reprimanded over handling of animals

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http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/7334240-74/animal-pitt-juhl#axzz3LRCXGWGC

Pitt researchers reprimanded over handling of animals

By Debra Erdley, TribLive.com, Tuesday, December 9, 2014

University of Pittsburgh officials confirm that they have reprimanded researchers several times this year for failure to comply with federal Public Health Service Policy involving the care of lab animals.

The incidents include a temporary failure to provide adequate pain medication to six monkeys and five rabbits, a finding that four mice lacked access to water and a failure to document treatment and quickly euthanize a goat that was unable to stand two days after surgery. They are detailed in four documents Pitt officials reported to the National Institutes of Health between March and August of this year.

Those reports were the basis for a complaint an Ohio group opposed to lab research on animals filed Friday with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, demanding an investigation of possible violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

“Whenever we see anything that we consider serious, we will file a complaint,” said Michael A. Budkie, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now.

Randy P. Juhl, Pitt vice chancellor and distinguished service professor of pharmacy, said he has yet to see Budkie's complaint and could not immediately comment on the specifics of it. But Juhl, who is responsible for Pitt's Animal Care and Use Program, said the university monitors projects for compliance with federal standards as a routine part of the research operation.

“Our way of making our program good is to report and investigate and make changes. We can't hire any smarter people, but sometimes we can make the system better,” Juhl said.

According to documents filed with the National Institutes of Health, Pitt officials issued an undisclosed fine against the researcher responsible for the goat's care. In all other cases the university issued reprimands, as well as plans to correct deficiencies.

Budkie said his group focuses on registered research labs across the country and follows noncompliance reports regarding the use of lab animals.

“To see this number of violations or potential violations in less than a year is pretty significant,” Budkie said.

“There is no such thing as humane experimentation on animals,” he said, adding that violations of the Animal Welfare Act can carry fines up to $10,000 per incident.

Juhl defended Pitt's standards and said animal experimentation has played a critical role in research advances.

“We have a history here at Pitt of the polio vaccine, of CPR being developed and Dr. Starzl's transplantation. These are things we can look back at 50 years later and say that was significant, and none of it could have happened without animal experiments,” Juhl said.

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