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Findings on GRU animal research differ; 2 agencies investigated complaints

Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 10:15 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 1:09 AM
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Two federal agencies responsible for monitoring the welfare of animals in research labs came to different conclusions about Georgia Regents University’s compliance with the law after receiving complaints from the Humane Society of the United States, according to reports released this month.



In November, the Humane Society released findings of a three-month undercover investigation, which alleged issues with a dental experiment conducted on dogs, psychological distress by primates, a lack of care for mice and insufficient staff training.

Meanwhile, the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, the oversight arm that monitors animal testing conducted with public funding, did not substantiate the allegations that GRU had violated the Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, according to a report released Feb. 11.

In response to the Humane Society complaint, the U.S. Department of Agriculture found five violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act during an on-site inspection in December, according to a report released Friday.

Not all of the violations were related to complaints made by the Humane Society, but are considered violations of federal law, a USDA spokesperson confirmed.

Kathleen Conlee, Humane Society vice president for research issues, said the OLAW report is troubling because the agency did not do an on-site inspection. Instead, the agency conducted its investigation by reviewing written records provided by GRU, according to OLAW, which monitors research funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Conlee said the OLAW findings do not necessarily show that written policies in place to address animal distress are actually being carried out.

“What they say on paper and what they do in practice we found to be two different things,” Conlee said. “It’s self-reporting. You leave it up to the institution to say how bad things are. They don’t want to lose their (NIH) funding, so they’re going to stretch the truth or not be totally honest.”

The Humane Society gave OLAW footage of primates pulling their hair out, drinking their urine and spinning obsessively in their cages. Conlee said this is a result of the primates being singly housed, instead of socially grouped, and without adequate enrichment.

OLAW reported the 52 primates are being housed alone based on scientific justification, veterinary exemptions or incompatibility, as allowed by law, according to its report. GRU also provided evidence of enrichment policies in place to provide toys, foraging boards, pipes, varying fruits and vegetables and other stimulants for primates showing self-injurious behavior.

Conlee said although those procedures are on paper, the Humane Society undercover investigator found that not all those enrichment methods were being provided. Conlee said the primates had already mastered the puzzles given to them long ago and that the enrichment attempts were not serving their purpose of mental stimulation.

The Humane Society also provided the agency with e-mails between its undercover investigator and GRU supervisors showing it took more than 24 hours for staff to euthanize a mouse that had its eyes eaten out by another mouse. OLAW, however, found rodents “are monitored daily and problems such as barbering or cage mate aggression are reported to veterinary staff.”

OLAW also found a dental implant procedure conducted on dogs in 2013 did receive the proper approval from the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, a group of faculty and community members required by federal law to approve all animal testing.

The USDA found the following violations during its on-site inspection in December:

• The university did conduct a search for alternatives for an experiment on dogs testing an antimicrobial coating to prevent infection from colonizing dental implants, but researchers left out an alternative search for “dental extractions.”

Whenever an animal is involved in research, the Animal Welfare Act requires laboratories to first search for a way to conduct the experiment without using animals or for a way to reduce pain or distress.

GRU did conduct a search for alternatives for the experiment but did not look for a way to do it without extracting the teeth from the dogs, said USDA public affairs specialist Tanya Espinosa.

• GRU researchers did not document why they are housing roughly 50 non-human primates in single cages rather than in socially grouped housing, which is recommended for psychological well-being. If primates are housed alone, the AWA law requires researchers to document and regularly review the specific reasons why.

• One bottle of Betadine, an antiseptic, being used on animals had expired in 2011 and a bottle of Nolvasan, a disinfectant, had expired in February 2013.

• A log documented that hamster enclosures were only being cleaned once a month and the inspector found excessive fecal matter in the enclosures. In a written statement, GRU officials said the hamster cages were being cleaned every two weeks, but one of the two staffs was not documenting the cleanings. The cages are now being cleaned by one staff, the university said.

• There was an excessive amount of dust and debris on the top of three primary enclosures, on a light fixture and on the ceiling around an air vent.

Espinosa said GRU was not fined or issued sanctions for these violations. The USDA inspector returned in January and found no evidence of further violations, according to a report.

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WalterBradfordCannon
1135
Points
WalterBradfordCannon 02/25/14 - 05:54 am
5
2

Enough is enough. The USDA

Enough is enough. The USDA on-site inspection, with full access to all protocols and records, found no substantial allegation of the Humane Society of the United States to be true. OLAW is privy to these inspection reports. They typically do not (in fact have never to my knowledge) conduct on-site investigations.

The USDA did issue citations. The USDA always issues citations when it inspects. However, none of those allegations were findings of noncompliance that had been outlined by the Humane Society of the United States. The Humane Society wasted everyone's time and money by conducting an "undercover" investigation by someone who did not understand animal welfare regulations adequately to find errors that could be substantiated by later inspection. In the case of ShyGuy, the lightweight dog, for example, yes, the dog was underweight. However, it was reported to veterinarians, and was dealt with promptly. The Humane Society INTENTIONALLY misled the public about that specific allegation, and most of the others.

Rob Pavey
520
Points
Rob Pavey 02/25/14 - 08:58 am
3
4

so....GRU's biggest sin is finally revealed.

Wow, to hear HSUS's Kathleen Conlee accuse researchers of "stretching the truth and not being totally honest" illustrates this organization's hypocrisy. It sounds like GRU's biggest sin was failing to do a full background check before hiring an agenda-driven activist who was there on false pretenses.

Bizkit
21949
Points
Bizkit 02/25/14 - 10:07 am
1
2

And the truth will set you

And the truth will set you free. So great posits. End of story.

itsanotherday1
34719
Points
itsanotherday1 02/25/14 - 11:27 am
2
2

Expired betadine...

Expired betadine... Well blow me down!

I do have concerns with primate treatment though.

Esctab
574
Points
Esctab 02/25/14 - 11:53 am
4
1

Not so fast.......

It is interesting that the individuals who have commented on this article thus far are of the opinion that the entire episode of animal care at GRU is of no meaning or consequence. I’m especially surprised by Rob Pavey’s response. Although I am not an animal activist and I have no involvement with the Humane Society, I also believe that unless they had launched an investigation, the slack way GRU was handling things never would have been voluntarily corrected by GRU. Moreover, I disagree with Rob Pavey’s assessment that the violations were no big deal and that it amounted only to GRU not doing a thorough background check on the employee they hired who turned out to be working undercover. Let’s not forget that GRU also did a sloppy job in selecting a Class B breeder as the source for obtaining its dogs. GRU also did a sloppy job, (or basically didn’t bother) to find alternatives to tooth extraction as required. The housing arrangements for the primates are also sloppy; GRU may be meeting the letter of the law with the primates, but certainly not the spirit – again sloppy. The issues uncovered by the investigation in and of themselves may not rise to the level of abuse that pricks the hearts of the majority of people, but we should not overlook that what we did learn about GRU from the investigation is that GRU engages in behaviors and practices that are NOT becoming of an organization that claims to be world-class.

itsanotherday1
34719
Points
itsanotherday1 02/25/14 - 12:14 pm
3
1

Esctab

I think the point is that HS made it out to be a problem of epic proportions, when in fact it was small potatoes. (excepting the primate treatment, which still bothers me)

Bizkit
21949
Points
Bizkit 02/25/14 - 12:31 pm
1
1

You lose credibility for a

You lose credibility for a real concern by crying wolf all the time. Be clear there agenda is no animal research and to give animals equal rights to humans.

Esctab
574
Points
Esctab 02/25/14 - 01:24 pm
4
0

Perspective.....

Like I said, I’m not an animal activist and I have no association with the Humane Society. I have a neutral view of the Humane Society.
I am not opposed to animal research either. But “small” things do matter, whether the commenters to the article want to acknowledge it or not.

Rob Pavey is critical of Kathleen Conlee for pointing out that GRU’s behavior of "stretching the truth and not being totally honest.” It seems to me she has expressed things quite accurately – GRU does have a lot of trouble telling the truth about many things. Ricardo can’t even be bothered to tell the truth about something as simple as a naming process. It does matter if an organization and its representatives play fast and loose with the truth. It may not matter to you, but it matters to me. It ought to matter to you too. Perhaps the issue of animal care doesn’t register with you as significant enough for the truth to matter, but my guess is that when the next issue on another topic arises and we discover that once again GRU has been sloppy and casual with the truth, then maybe, just maybe, you will realize that GRU has a disturbing pattern of not being forthcoming with the facts and is willing to cut corners whenever and where ever it can; and if caught, just make up excuses and more lies.

WalterBradfordCannon
1135
Points
WalterBradfordCannon 02/25/14 - 02:14 pm
1
3

@esctab, I think you perhaps

@esctab, I think you perhaps lack a perspective of dealing with the USDA and OLAW. Their findings mirror those found at every institution that uses USDA species in research. In fact, the allegations by the USDA are, if anything, more minor than those found at other institutions. The use of the appropriate search term, for example, is a case of i-dotting and t-crossing being done properly, as is the case of the primate enrichment. The followup visit found that enrichment was fine, but recommended changes in how it was documented. Again, this is i-dotting and t-crossing.

Animal research paves the way for advances in biomedical sciences and clinical medicine, in many, many ways. Every national agency (USA, Canada, EU, Japan, etc) supports using animals in research in appropriate balance to the potential good that can come from such use. People like HSUS want to point out that animal research may make some people uneasy. This is true, and is similarly true in agricultural practices, and many other ways in which humans interact with animals. We have an ethical responsibility to ensure no unnecessary pain and suffering occurs while pursuing goals of clinical or scientific nature. A process oversees that responsibility, and the one at GRU works pretty much like the ones all over the USA. There is expert and peer review, and a training process to ensure uniformity in interpretation of guidelines, and regular inspections. What has just happened is the HSUS wasted a lot of the USDA inspectors' time, a lot of the OLAW administrators' time, and a lot of GRU people's time. And we wonder why the cost of government goes up year after year. HSUS has people on both sides of the issue wasting money so they can solicit more donations.

Esctab
574
Points
Esctab 02/25/14 - 02:34 pm
3
0

Walter, I’m not going to

Walter,
I’m not going to waste time blogging back and forth about this; for one thing I assume you work at GRU. Your assumption about me is not accurate though, I’ve spent many years working with agencies like the ones that had to respond to the HS allegations; I know all too well how accrediting agencies operate. But more than that, I know all too well that GRU is very willing to totally misrepresent facts to accrediting agencies, including SACS.

Walter, you may want to portray the animal care issue and searching of terms as just meaningless crossing of t’s and dotting of i’s; (and I do have direct experience with how tedious that is), but it is the job of GRU to do it and do it correctly. It matters. If the internal process worked like it should and as you described (the peer review stuff); then GRU should have had its documentation ducks lined up better.

nocnoc
30946
Points
nocnoc 02/25/14 - 07:34 pm
0
2

So we have what if

Given the Current Administration Liberal leanings, and if the FED's Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, said No Harm No foul... But the USDA finds other violations. but not all of the ASPCA's

Well it seems to me to take some serious wind out of the sails for the Animal group. Many suspect while they played 007, they might have even help in some manner setup the problems they documented.

In my opinion the given:
* the clandestine Special Ops infiltration tactics.
* the group had already lined up Hollywood talking heads.
* The group kicked off a donation drive, using less than ethical aggressive collection tactics for donations while protesting for more $$$$.

Sorry in my opinion, the group has been CO-OPTED by PETA types...

WalterBradfordCannon
1135
Points
WalterBradfordCannon 02/25/14 - 09:48 pm
0
2

HSUS was PETA before PETA was

HSUS was PETA before PETA was PETA. They are older, more well funded, significantly, and typically more savvy. However, those two groups are cut from the same cloth.

I do NOT represent animal research as dotting i's and crossing t's. I do view that as a fair representation of the types of wrongdoings that GRU was guilty of. The bulk of the practice at GRU is sound, and was found to be so by the USDA and OLAW. The facts speak for themselves. None of the allegations by HSUS about animal welfare wrongdoings were held up by the inspections by the USDA, and the findings of OLAW (which were in part based on USDA inspections). What happened, instead, is that sometimes things go poorly in animal research. When that happened, attention was brought to the situation to relieve animal suffering. That is what happens when the system is working. The system at GRU is working.

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