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Humane Society alleges mistreatment of primates by Georgia Regents University

Friday, Dec. 13, 2013 10:10 PM
Last updated Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013 3:33 PM
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Rhesus monkeys flip obsessively in circles and pace back and forth alone in their metal laboratory cages at a Georgia Regents University research facility.

Several of their tails and sides are bald and blood red from plucking out their own hair. Another “is so psychologically distressed” that he cups his hands over his genitals and drinks his own urine.

The Humane Society of the United States alleged Friday that GRU is in violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act for not addressing clear distress shown by the majority of the roughly 50 primates in its research facilities. While federal law requires research labs to house non-human primates in social groups with certain exceptions, the Humane Society said all but two of GRU’s rhesus macaques are being singly caged 24 hours a day with little to no enrichment.

Kathleen Conlee, the organization’s vice president for Animal Research Issues, said a Humane Society undercover investigator observed five primates housed at the Carl Sanders Research and Education building and 48 at GRU’s Gracewood Facility during a three-month investigation this year. Conlee provided video footage taken during that time to The Augusta Chronicle on Friday.

Conlee said none of the primates at Carl Sanders were rotated into an “enrichment cage” with play activities. Although there is an outside enclosure at Gracewood, the investigator confirmed none were given time outside their cages, most of which are about 4-square feet in size.

GRU officials declined a request for comment on these specific allegations and instead released a statement.

“Research involving non-human primates is strictly regulated and those regulations are rigorously enforced to ensure humane treatment,” according to the statement from Director of Media Relations Christen Carter. “Georgia Regents University is inspected annually by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act are certainly a focus of those inspections.”

The AWA permits lab primates to be housed singly if they are too aggressive and fight, if they have a contagious disease, or if their participation in an active experiment requires them to be alone.

The Guide for the Care and Use of Animals, required for all federally funded projects, also states single housing should be the exception and animals should be alone for the shortest duration possible. It also states singly housed animals should have an opportunity for release into larger areas with additional enrichment.

During a Dec. 10 interview, Mark Hamrick, GRU senior vice president for research, said the majority of the GRU primates have been housed singly for most of their lives and became too aggressive during attempts to pair them.

“You can imagine just as in individuals who haven’t been around people before socially, when you try to group house them, often times they do fight and get injured,” he said.

According to documents obtained by The Chronicle, 17 have been bought by GRU in the last three years and eight have been housed there since the 1990s.

Although U.S. laws enacted in the 1990s created stricter requirements for social housing in research labs, less than half of macaques housed in indoor cages were grouped socially by 2007, according to a 2011 report by Louis DiVincenti Jr., senior instructor in the department of laboratory animal medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

DiVincenti wrote this is because of an “overestimation of the risks” and underestimation of the benefits. Although rhesus monkeys are naturally aggressive and might be incompatible when they are first paired, they can be housed in pairs with a high likelihood of success with minimal injuries, he wrote.

DiVincenti stated social housing can help animals better cope in stressful lab environments and can limit self-destructive behavior like hair-pulling and self-biting.

Conlee said apart from the psychological distress shown in most macaques caused by single housing, GRU staff does not appear to be properly trained in basic primate behavior.

In regards to the primate named Peanut who repeatedly drank his urine, a veterinary technician alledgedly told the Humane Society’s investigator that “nothing that monkey does is normal” according to Conlee.

One primate held at Gracewood named Bonzo is hairless from self-injurious behavior.

Conlee said GRU provides “busy boxes” filled with fruit for enrichment, but these same items have been used for so many years that they no longer provide any mental challenge for the monkeys and do not meet psychological needs.

She said a TV set blared cartoons for the primates, but the investigator did not see the primates engaged in watching and they appeared more disturbed than soothed.

Conlee said her organization has filed a complaint with the United States Department of Agriculture, which regulates the use of animals in research.

“At the very least they should be socially housing those animals and have a better environmental enhancement plan,” she said. “If they don’t have the equipment to socially house, they shouldn’t be allowed (to have the animals)... Sometimes we see that the plan was strong and the practice was terrible. In this case, the plan was lacking and the practice was lacking.”

GRU STATEMENT

“Research involving non-human primates is strictly regulated and those regulations are rigorously enforced to ensure humane treatment. Georgia Regents University is inspected annually by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act are certainly a focus of those inspections.

The GRU Internal Animal Care and Use Committee also inspects sites where non-human primates are housed twice a year.

Additionally, GRU voluntarily submits itself for accreditation and review by the Association for the Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International, which is not required by the AWA. The university currently holds AAALAC international accreditation and has maintained consistent accreditation for more than 30 years.”

THE BACKSTORY

BACKGROUND: The Humane Society of the United States on Nov. 22 released findings from a three-month undercover investigation conducted at GRU this spring. Their main allegations were about questionable practices using dogs in dental implant experiments. GRU purchased dogs from a dealer repeatedly cited by the federal government. The dealer is under investigation amid allegations of violating the Animal Welfare Act. The investigation also showed GRU might have not gotten proper approval for the experiments, which is required by law.

DEVELOPMENTS: On Friday, the Humane Society released video footage and a written report to The Augusta Chronicle detailing allegations that GRU violated the federal Animal Welfare Act in its treatment of non-human primates. The organization alleges GRU is depriving its roughly 50 rhesus monkeys of social housing and enrichment, which is required by law. This deprivation has resulted in severe “psychological distress,” including monkeys pulling out their hair and eating it, drinking urine and spinning obsessively.

THE GRU STANCE: GRU has stated all its animal laboratory practices are within the limits of the law and that its researches follow protocol to ensure humane treatment of animals.

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Austin Rhodes
3002
Points
Austin Rhodes 12/13/13 - 11:13 pm
3
9
Ut - oh...

The Humane Society is throwing poop at GRU again.

Sorry the animals are not doing well...but I am a bit relieved...for a minute I thought GRU scientists were mistreating Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork...

TakeAHike
191
Points
TakeAHike 12/14/13 - 12:06 am
4
8
Just another HSUS fundraising stunt

What do you expect from HSUS, an organization that employes a bunch of PETA members? So they happened to get a mole a job at GRU. A lot of video and some creative editing and they make up something to fit their narrative.
Remember kids, donate to the CSRA Humane Society and don't get tricked into donating to the Humane Society of the United States. They're not related. The former takes care of homeless cats and dogs. The latter wants you to quit eating meat or have any medical advances all while padding their excessive pension plan.

seenitB4
98778
Points
seenitB4 12/14/13 - 05:58 am
8
4
We are sick

A caged animal will go insane & that is what is happening here...,do we need testing, yes we do, but we are missing the point of this article. When you read this, how in the world can anyone THINK caging an animal in a small cage 24/7 is humane??

Pulling out their hair----drinking their urine---give me a break here....I would raving mad & hostile too....GEEZ folks...what else do we want to happen...maybe skinning them alive??
Frankly my dear...they would better off dead.

seenitB4
98778
Points
seenitB4 12/14/13 - 06:01 am
7
5
Why not do this

We could go back to the Roman days & throw some animals to the lions....maybe that would satisfy the lust & gore & satisfy the wants.

We are pathetic...

nocnoc
49787
Points
nocnoc 12/14/13 - 08:40 am
4
2
TOO MUCH BEING PIECEMEALED OUT

Why another story just making the Headlines.
How long did they sit on this to grab another headline.

It is obvious the Group is Piecemealing them out for maximum MEDIA ATTENTION at this point.

CRYING WOLF is getting old.
If it was about the Animals and not the $$$$ and Media attention they would have released it all at once.

BTW:
IF this is the Old MCG Solarium on the hill out on the Backside Water Tower of the Gracewood Property (GSSH), it has been there 45+/- years that I know of.

It was used for Vet teaching/training, since I was a kid walking down the road, passing it on my way to the Spirit Creek swamp to fish.

BTW: I thought the Monkey Research place was at the Yerkes primate center in Lawrenceville GA.

nocnoc
49787
Points
nocnoc 12/14/13 - 08:42 am
3
2
BTW: I said it before, in my opinion.

HS-US has been co-opted by PETA members seeking a new MEDIA outlet for their extreme views.

GiantsAllDay
10562
Points
GiantsAllDay 12/14/13 - 09:31 am
4
2
We are primates, also. Just

We are primates, also. Just remember that.

my.voice
5185
Points
my.voice 12/14/13 - 09:36 am
1
1
They were referring to the

They were referring to the names change(s)

itsanotherday1
48436
Points
itsanotherday1 12/14/13 - 09:48 am
5
0
There is definitely an agenda

There is definitely an agenda here, but I do smell some smoke with this situation vs the dog story. It bears further looking into by the regulatory agency IMO.

Bizkit
35764
Points
Bizkit 12/14/13 - 11:41 am
3
3
So can GRU accuse the Humane

So can GRU accuse the Humane Society of cruelty to primates too?
Humans are primates and they seem to want to punish these primates unjustly and cruelly at GRU .Why don't they charge Azziz with cruelty to primates since the faculty and staff are being abused too and they are all primates. We are an animal, a primate, a homo sapien. Seems they are a discriminatory organization picking certain animals. Gee GAD you beat me to it. This is ridiculous this organization is hypocritical and act like Nazis.

Bizkit
35764
Points
Bizkit 12/14/13 - 11:40 am
2
3
Can we citizens ban together

Can we citizens ban together to tell the Humane Society to butt out and get the heck outta town for the cruel and unusual punishment inflicted on us primates because we are sick of the bad press and ridiculous claims and accusations and inflammatory strategy without any merit so far. When the govt steps in and says something is wrong then there is merit.

Roullet
13
Points
Roullet 12/14/13 - 05:21 pm
3
2
GRU apologists.

Because GRU's apologists can't defend the school's mistreatment of animals, they attack HSUS. It's sad and pathetic and won't work. It also proves that those who support GRU were never taught empathy. Perhaps a few months in a cage like the primates at GRU would help.

As for GRU, all they are running is a primate prison camp. They don't know the first thing about science, animal care, etc. All they know and care about are grants from the federal government and private companies.

Thank goodness The Augusta Chronicle has the guts to expose GRU's wrongdoing.

Bizkit
35764
Points
Bizkit 12/14/13 - 11:18 pm
0
1
There are only accusations of

There are only accusations of mistreatment. Is the fed swooping down to close the research facility? Is there an investigation or just accusations and bleeding hearts. It's just not logical thinking. If there is animal abuse then I hope they get to the bottom of it, but it seems there is no interest in truth just a want to sensationalize this. It's not a public opinion issue but a highly regulated govt issue.

Bizkit
35764
Points
Bizkit 12/14/13 - 11:29 pm
1
1
All the anti-science, secular

All the anti-science, secular humanist and buddhist with their animal worship is just insane. If all animals are equal then there is no such thing as murder. Kill a rat, a cat, a man, a cow, a chicken, a shrimp, an oyster, a worm, etc all just killing an animal. All life struggles to exist-its called evolution. A dog isn't a human, nor is a very intelligent mammal=they don't recognize themselves in a mirror and have the intellect of a two year old=ever try to reason with a two year old? Course I love em too just I recognize their place in the scheme of life. We humans have used other animals for farming, hunting, food source, protection, etc. so a research tool is just another similar application.

WalterBradfordCannon
1500
Points
WalterBradfordCannon 12/20/13 - 02:01 pm
0
0
I think we all need to take a

I think we all need to take a step back here. The university is regulated by OLAW and the USDA, and the USDA has visited the campus specifically to investigate the charges brought by the whistleblower from the Humane Society. One of the charges brought by the Humane Society warranted action. The rest of their accusations were baseless, and brought by the Humane Society because they lacked information about the care of these animals. The false accusations importantly include the charges about ShyGuy, who the USDA determined was not mistreated in any way.

The USDA will cite GRU for the one charge alleged by the Humane Society, and GRU will alter its practices to avoid the same flavor of citation in the future. For those not familiar with this process, the USDA cites every agency that conducts animal research in the USA, and it cites most of them every year, sometimes multiple times. It is just the nature of the regulatory process. It demonstrates the process is working. I write this note specifically because the process deserves to be given a viewpoint from the other side. If the Humane Society had not visited, GRU would still have been cited for the USDA, and I think it is likely the citations would have been identical. The USDA conducts inspections each 6 months, and usually writes some citations.

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