Monday, March 03, 2008

Nevada Lab Under Fire For Monkey Injuries

nevada labTwo monkeys whose fingers were squashed and amputated at a Sparks laboratory are among 20 violations that a national animal rights group cited in seeking a larger fine against Charles River Laboratories.

Stop Animal Exploitation Now, based in Cincinnati, said the 20 violations in 2006 and 11 in the first half of 2007 were reported by the company to federal officials and obtained through the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.

At the Charles Rivers animal research lab in Sparks, the fingers of two monkeys were caught in the wiring of their cages and a dolly while being moved. The tip of the tail of a third monkey was cut and was treated.

The incidents occurred Nov. 29-Dec. 1, 2006.

Amy Cianciaruso, a Charles River spokeswoman in Wilmington, Mass., said the company immediately changed procedures to minimize the chance of a recurrence of the injuries and staff were trained on the new procedures. She said federal inspectors found the changes to be appropriate.

Michael A. Budkie, SAEN executive director, said the monkey incidents and untreated skin lesions on several rabbits in a Charles River laboratory in Pennsylvania were the most disturbing. Other violations dealt with veterinary care, feeding, housing and sanitation at facilities other than the one in Sparks.

The violations occurred after Charles River was sent a warning letter by Elizabeth Goldentyer, eastern regional director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture animal care division in 2005.

Budkie last month asked the USDA to impose the largest fine possible, $3,750 per violation, allowed under the Animal Welfare Act to get the company's attention.

"When your staff is so incompetent they can't move animals without causing amputation of their fingers, serious action needs to be taken," he said.

Cianciaruso said that, because the incidents were reported by the company and immediately dealt with, the company does not consider them violations.

"Charles River has a deep commitment to animal welfare, and we make every effort to exceed all national standards for the care of research models (animals) under our stewardship," Cianciaruso said.

Charles River Laboratories has done animal research to test and develop drugs since 1947, with about 8,000 employees at 101 facilities, offices and laboratories in 17 countries.

As a testament to the company's work, she said, it recently received an $111.6 million, 10-year contract from the National Cancer Institute to conduct research at its laboratory in Maryland.

Charles River has operated a facility on Dunne Circle in the Sparks industrial area for 15 years. During the winter, it opened a second laboratory, one of the largest in the country, at 6995 Longley Lane in Reno.

The company told the Reno Gazette-Journal last October that the Sparks facility would be closed after the new one in Reno was operational. But Cianciaruso said the company plans to keep in use a "significant portion" of the Sparks facility.

Eventually, the company plans to employ 900 workers at the Reno lab while keeping "an appropriate number" at the Sparks facility, Cianciaruso said. The company employed 400 workers in Sparks before moving some of them to Reno.

At the Reno lab, officials said, the company will test new drugs for side effects. The initial research to see if the drug is effective is done elsewhere. The Reno lab is rated as a Biosafety Level 2 facility, the same rating for hospitals.

Coral Amende of the Rescue Connection group in Incline Village has reviewed the blueprints for the Reno lab and counts cages for 980 monkeys and 871 dogs. Given the size of the operation, she had been lobbying for local inspectors and is now considering lobbying for state inspectors.

"We have been completely stonewalled by every source," she said of her initial efforts. "It's imperative they not be allowed to keep doing what they're doing behind closed doors. Animal welfare is not No. 1 on their list. Making money is No. 1."

With 450,000 square feet in Reno, Cianciaruso said large studies can be accommodated. She said the number of monkeys, dogs or rodents would depend on lab research contracts under negotiation.

"We can't look into the future and comment as precisely as you would like regarding how many primates and rodents the lab might potentially hold, but we can say that we are a large lab. As a result, we can host large studies," Cianciaruso said.

She said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires drugs to be tested in two species, one rodent and one non-rodent, before human trials can begin.

For the Reno lab, Cianciaruso said the company has made "a significant investment" in new caging, which will eliminate recurrence of the monkey-moving incidents.

Last September, Greg Beattie, executive director for the Sparks operation, told the Gazette-Journal the company would greatly reduce research involving macaque monkeys in the Reno facility. He said most of the research in Reno wold involve rodents and a small percentage of dogs and monkeys.

In Sparks, he said the monkeys made up the "vast majority" of the research.

Beattie also said USDA inspectors found only housekeeping issues at the Sparks facility and had never been cited for animal welfare issues.

Charles River Laboratories has been in business of doing animal research in testing and developing drugs since 1947. It has 101 production facilities, offices and laboratories in 17 countries and employs about 8,000 people worldwide.

Story here.

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