Labs to have surprise visit from USDA

By By Michael McFall, News Editor

By Michael McFall, News Editor

The federal government will be inspecting the U’s animal research labs in a surprise visit to find out if its employees are mistreating dogs, kittens, mice, monkeys and other animals.

On Wednesday, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Institutes of Health saying that the labs are violating the Animal Welfare Act, a federal law, by allowing their animals to suffer and die from both experimentation and gross neglect. Among the complaints, PETA cites injecting fluids into kitten’s brains and not hydrating rodents and leaving their dead bodies to rot in cages for more than a week. The USDA confirmed Friday it will investigate the complaints.

“We’re going to inspect sooner rather than later,” said David Sacks, spokesman for the USDA animal and plant investigation department.

Sacks said the surprise inspection will be much like the annual surprise inspections any USDA-licensed operation goes through, including the U labs that have passed them every year.

If the inspector discovers the lab is in violation of federal law, the lab could face monetary fines and have its license revoked and its animals confiscated. Sacks said he was wary about speculating whether labs accused of animal cruelty clean up their act until the inspection is complete.

“That is a cynical attitude that discounts the pride people take in doing a high-quality job and the concern people who work in animal-care facilities have for the welfare of animals,” said Tom Parks, U vice president of research.

The U has not received formal notice it will be inspected. Surprise inspections are usually announced to the institution 30 minutes before the inspector arrives, Parks said. He said the animal lab has always passed its surprise inspections, and in the past five years, no USDA inspection has ever found a violation.

PETA collected footage of the alleged violations by having a female spy, who the labs hired as an animal caretaker, carry a hidden camera with her at work between February and October of 2009. Although Parks refuted PETA’s claims last week, he said the undercover footage was edited to show only the worst scenarios in the lab’s recent history and is not indicative of any systemic problems with the institution and that anything done to the animals is all for the advancement of medicine.

Parks declined to disclose who the PETA spy was.

PETA representatives did not respond for comment.

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