Letter: U labs not living up to laws

Editor:

People concerned about animal welfare are right to scrutinize the use of animals in experiments (“Animal activists should remember that humans have rights too,” May 28). Numerous federal reports indicate that facilities routinely violate the minimal protections of the Animal Welfare Act, the only federal law that provides protection for animals in laboratories. A scathing 2005 audit published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Inspector General reports that laboratories view fines for AWA violations not as a penalty for causing pain and suffering to animals but as a “cost of conducting business.”

The OIG audit further notes that Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees -oversight committees that are charged with evaluating proposed experiments and ensuring that laws and regulations are followed-are failing to carry out their responsibilities. As a result, sick animals go without veterinary care, animals used in invasive surgeries do not receive sufficient pain relief, and extremely sick animals are denied humane euthanasia. An astounding 29 percent–nearly a third-of oversight committees fail to ensure that experimenters have looked for alternatives to painful procedures on animals, as they’re required to do.

Animals in laboratories endure lives of deprivation, isolation, stress, trauma and depression even before they are used in any experiment. When billions of taxpayer dollars are funneled into these experiments, the public has a right to expect that animals will, at the very least, be given the minimal protections conveyed by the AWA. The failure of IACUCs to ensure that this modicum of humane treatment is applied results in immense suffering for animals used in sometimes painful, often distressful and ultimately lethal experiments.

Sincerely,Alka Chandna, Ph.D.Laboratory Oversight SpecialistPeople for the Ethical Treatment of Animals