Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Louisiana Research Center Under Scrutiny For Handling Of Primates

lafayette iberiaFederal investigators have confirmed reports of primate mistreatment at the largest primate research facility in the US.

As The Scientist reported in early March, the New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana drew criticism after a video of alleged animal abuse surfaced. The video was shot by an investigator with the Humane Society of the United States, who in 2007 and 2008 recorded images of chimps being sedated with dart guns and falling off their perches onto the floor, and monkeys with open wounds.

Investigators with the United States Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) visited the New Iberia Research Center, which is administered by the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, on March 17th in response to a complaint filed by the Humane Society. The report detailing their investigation was released yesterday (May 11).

Investigators were not able to observe the facility's sedation practices during their visit, but they documented several other violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

"Three adult primates individually housed with nursing infants were under sedation in their primary enclosures without adequate monitoring," the report read. "Each animal was not responsive to our presence or the vigorous attempts of the infant to arouse their mother. One of the sedated primates had their head pressed into the side of the enclosure possibly obstructing breathing. Monitoring in this manner was identified in separate areas of the facility grounds by two different inspection teams on the same day."

The report also stated that adult chimpanzees were transported improperly, with unrestrained apes set on tables and lifted by their four limbs into waiting vehicles. The report noted "the possibility of injury caused by the primate falling off of an unsecure table, injury to the joints or musculature caused by rough manipulations during the carrying or dropping during lifting the animal in to the transport vehicle."

Investigators also found that a number of African Green Monkeys at the facility were missing their tails. "Some of these tails were amputated as a result of trauma and others were amputated as a result of frostbite," the report read. "The heating of outside enclosures does not allow for the prevention of frostbite to all extremities of these primates."

The investigators uncovered further deficiencies in how the center documented animal research protocols as mandated by the Animal Welfare Act.

"USDA will be taking immediate action to ensure that these issues are corrected," the federal agency said in a statement.

"The UL Lafayette New Iberia Research Center is working with APHIS to ensure that corrective actions are taken," New Iberia Research Center director Thomas Rowell said in a statement faxed to The Scientist. The statement notes that the investigation turned up six "noncompliant issues," five of which the research center had "completely addressed" as of May 11th. The only outstanding issue appears to be the proper heating of the outdoor African Green Monkey enclosures noted in the APHIS report. The center has until October 30th to address that problem.

USDA investigator revisited the facility on April 30th and concluded that the citations uncovered in the March 17th investigation "were reviewed and addressed appropriately by the University's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee," according to the facility's statement.

Full story here.

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