Federal animal welfare inspectors find 20 violations at UW-MadisonMADISON — Depressed and vomiting dogs, a dirty operating room and expired medications were among 20 violations found at the University of Wisconsin-Madison by federal animal welfare inspectors during a surprise visit last month.
By: Deborah Ziff , Wisconsin State Journal
MADISON — Depressed and vomiting dogs, a dirty operating room and expired medications were among 20 violations found at the University of Wisconsin-Madison by federal animal welfare inspectors during a surprise visit last month.
UW-Madison must fix the problems noted in the report, which was released this week, or risk losing $200 million to $300 million in annual animal research funding, said Eric Sandgren, the university’s head of animal research oversight.
Sandgren said that when he got the 10-page report, “my stomach just went clunk.”
“I’m not at all happy with the things listed there,” he said. “That’s just not acceptable.”
The report was released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Inspectors from another federal agency, the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, also visited. The two agencies enforce animal welfare law.
Investigators told Sandgren that the university is not likely to be fined for any of the offenses. University officials are working to fix the violations and prevent new ones, Sandgren said.
One major finding is that in five studies, UW-Madison researchers did not show that they tried to find an alternative to painful experiments on animals.
“Even if you believe animal research is worthwhile, I think most people believe it should be done in the most humane way possible,” said Rick Bogle, co-director of the Madison-based Alliance for Animals, an animal rights group. “And this says that it is not being done that way at all.”
But Sandgren said the issue is how researchers fill out the application to
conduct animal research. He said the university will ask scientists to more specifically document their attempts to conduct less painful procedures.
Three dogs were observed suffering following operations, according to the report. Two were vomiting, depressed and not producing urine. The dogs were part of a study to find ways to preserve kidneys longer before they are transplanted.
The inspectors said the university needs to do a better job of alerting the attending veterinarian to changes in the dogs’ conditions.
Sandgren said lab animal veterinarians now will be called ahead of time to let them know when these surgeries will occur.
The report also found a slippery floor that caused a pig to repeatedly fall down, a gerbil that was struggling to breathe, thick layers of dust on air vents, open supplies of primate food, a rusty IV stand and shelves in an operating room, and a strong smell of urine in a dog room.
“When this happens, it’s a little nerve-wracking,” Sandgren said. “But it’s also a good thing. It helps us do things better.”
UW-Madison conducts hundreds of studies in 52 animal facilities and spends $25 million per year in animal care, Sandgren said.
USDA inspects UW-Madison annually, but a visit from the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, is rare.
“OLAW does not visit institutions routinely,” spokesman Don Ralbovsky said. He said the agency “investigates all allegations involving animal welfare that are brought to its attention.”
Ralbovsky would not say whether the December visit was sparked by an allegation.