Ivy League Cruelty
PCRM Uncovers Shocking Animal Abuse at Nation’s Top Schools
The most fragile time in a dog’s life is the first few weeks after birth. Their mothers—or their human caretakers—would never neglect them during this time, if they had the young one’s interests at heart. But in a University of Pennsylvania laboratory, technicians did not even notice when a newborn puppy disappeared. The puppy was eventually found dead under a kennel floor grate.
In a laboratory at Yale University, baboons were burned and blistered when heating pads were accidentally substituted for warm water units. At Cornell, a primate’s lungs essentially burst when an important valve was not opened during surgery. The animal died of pulmonary hyperinflation.
These are just a few of the many violations of the Animal Welfare Act in PCRM’s new report on cruelty to animals at Ivy League schools. PCRM researchers found that although Ivy League schools are considered among the most prestigious in the nation for academics and research, they certainly don’t make the grade when it comes to animal welfare. The report revealed that all eight schools consistently fail to meet even the basic requirements of the Animal Welfare Act, the only federal law that applies to animals used in experiments.
The Animal Welfare Act sets standards for animal care. The standards are minimal and do not even cover rats and mice, who are the most commonly used animals in laboratories, or, for that matter, birds and reptiles. Tasked with enforcing this legislation, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) investigators periodically inspect animal experimentation facilities to detect deficiencies.
PCRM researchers evaluated animal care at each of the eight Ivy League schools by combing through 2008 to 2011 animal facility inspection reports in the USDA’s APHIS database. To rank the schools, PCRM developed the Research Misconduct Score, a formula measuring the number and severity of each school’s violations.
First, PCRM counted the number of violations at each school. Unlike APHIS, which typically groups similar incidents of noncompliance into one violation, PCRM counted each separate incident as a violation. Then, PCRM weighted each school’s number of violations, including repeat violations and severe violations—incidents of unplanned animal death, injury, or negligence that could result in death or injury. Schools received one point for a nonsevere violation, one extra point for a repeat violation, and two extra points for a severe violation. A higher score indicates a worse pattern of violations.
|Research Misconduct Score
|University of Pennsylvania
||A dead newborn puppy was found under a kennel floor grate.
||Nonhuman primates were routinely forced to go more than 24 hours without water.
||Baboons were burned and blistered when heating pads were substituted for warm water units in an experiment.
||A cage was sent through a mechanical cage washer with a primate still inside. He was found dead.
|| A primate’s lungs essentially burst when an important valve was not opened during surgery. The animal died of pulmonary hyperinflation.
||Students used animals in surgical experiments not approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. Two had to be euthanized.
||An investigator noticed a nonhuman primate so thin his pelvic bones showed. The attending veterinarian had not been notified of this life-threatening weight loss.
||Alternatives to a painful experiment were not even considered.
PCRM also considered the amount of research funding each school received from the National Institutes of Health from fiscal year 2008 to July 18, 2011, and the number of AWA-covered animals held at each school from 2008 to 201
From Sloppy Records to Lethal Misconduct
Every Ivy League program had serious violations, and all but two had repeat violations. The University of Pennsylvania received the worst score in PCRM’s report. Penn had more violations, more repeat violations, and more severe violations while receiving more NIH funding than any other school, demonstrating an animal research program fraught with errors, neglect, and disregard for the Animal Welfare Act.
Harvard had numerous severe violations, including sending a cage with a monkey still inside through a blisteringly hot power washing machine, and anesthesia overdoses that resulted in the deaths of a monkey and a goat. Yale also had several severe violations, including negligence resulting in baboons getting burns and blisters from heating pads. In 2010 and 2011, inspectors noted that nonhuman primates in Princeton’s laboratories were routinely deprived of water for extended periods. A pregnant and obviously sick marmoset at Princeton did not receive veterinary medical care.
Columbia had nearly two dozen AWA violations, including dirty facilities, inadequate recordkeeping, and failure to consider alternatives for two painful procedures on animals.
Even those schools with the least NIH funding and fewest animals at risk—Princeton, Brown, and Dartmouth—failed to fully adhere to the Animal Welfare Act. The number of covered animals in the Ivy League animal research programs exceeded 47,000, and the four schools with the most animals were among the five worst programs in PCRM’s ranking.
The lax animal care at Ivy League schools appears to be the result of disregard for animals, rubber-stamp approvals by institutional animal care and use committees, poor or absent oversight by those committees, and lack of accountability. Federal inspections are infrequent and superficial, given the thousands of animals involved. Repeat and severe offenders rarely face consequences. According to a 2005 report from the USDA Office of the Inspector General, the rare and minimal fines that are sometimes levied are considered by the offending facilities to be simply “a normal cost of conducting business rather than a deterrent for violating the law.”
Schools are reluctant to reveal details of their animal experiments or care, and information typically can only be gleaned through APHIS inspection reports, research facility annual reports, Freedom of Information Act requests, undercover investigations, and whistleblowers. Animal welfare deficiencies can go unnoticed or uncorrected for long periods without meaningful consequences for the institutions.
Replacing animal experiments with nonanimal alternatives is the most effective way to completely prevent violations of the Animal Welfare Act, and would also lead to more applicable and reliable scientific approaches to the study of human diseases. In the meantime, universities and other research institutions must be held accountable for their treatment of the animals in their care.
PCRM is asking APHIS to perform more frequent and comprehensive inspections of offending programs and to levy significant fines and USDA program suspensions for violations. PCRM experts also recommend a halt of NIH funding of research programs that show disregard for federal law.
ONLINE> To read PCRM’s full report, go to PCRM.org/IvyLeague.