SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – After a state audit of the University of Utah’s laboratory safety practices, the New England Anti-Vivisection Society has called for an immediate suspension of the university’s research on animals.
The NEAVS sent a complaint Wednesday to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare and asked for the suspension until “they are in compliance of all regulations for federally-supported animal research projects”.
On May 14, the state released their findings of a performance audit which said the University is not following prescribed practices performing limited health assessments for employees working with laboratory animals.
The state’s investigation described the deficiencies in the U’s labs as a “broken system that places lab personnel at risk.”
In the complaint, the NEAVS said this is not the first time the university has been found in violation of federal law and mandates.
According to a press release by the NEAVS, public records indicate the university has been cited at least 12 times for violating the federal Animal Welfare Act. This includes improper surgical procedures resulting in the death of a nonhuman primate, a kitten needlessly dying of dehydration, and a nonhuman primate being accidentally burned so badly he was euthanized.”
“It’s not surprising that a close look at U of U labs would reveal more violations of federal regulations,” said Amy Meyer, NEAVS Grassroots Organizer and U of U alumni. “We’re glad that the state brought these troubling issues to light, but without meaningful repercussions, we fear that the U will continue to put the safety of animals and lab staff on the backburner.”
NEAVS said they filed the complaint in hopes they will use their authority to suspend taxpayer-funded animal research at the U until they can prove to be in compliance of all regulations.
“OLAW has the power to restrict or withdraw the University’s assurance, a requirement for animal research that involves federal funding,” said the press release.
A copy of the complaint is available here: neavs.org/s/OLAW-Complaint-May-2019.pdf.
In response to the complaint, Julie Kiefer, Ph.D.Manager, Science Communications at the University of Utah said the U is dedicated to carrying out high quality research to advance science and improve health.
“Recently, an activist group has cited a state lab safety audit as cause for concern in regard to animal research,” said Kiefer. “To clarify, that the audit did not find issues with animal safety. In response to a specific point in the audit, the U now requires that personnel who come in contact with animals fill out a questionnaire that allows health care professionals to assess whether an individual’s health status could be at risk.”
Kiefer said completing the questionnaire used to be voluntary but mandating the task provides another tool to enhance safety.
“As part of standard practice, the U will continue to require that personnel wear protective gear and use appropriate safety equipment,” said Kiefer. “Past issues cited by the activist group cites have already been addressed by the U and the media.”
Kiefer further stated the U is committed to continually improving its culture of safety across all areas of campus, including in research laboratories.
“Already, the U has begun restructuring its reporting system and is implementing a 13-point plan to achieve excellence in laboratory safety,” said Kiefer. “In parallel, our researchers and staff remain dedicated to responsible and ethical research and follow rigorous guidelines to meet the highest standards of animal welfare. The U holds in the highest regard its responsibility to innovate new solutions to some of the biggest challenges confronting our health and society, and recognizes that doing so is inseparable from safe and responsible research practices.”