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Hurricane Sandy: 10,000 Animals Left to Die in NYU Lab
November 27, 2012

Hurricane Sandy killed humans and animals alike. But 10,000 of Sandy’s victims clearly did not have to die. They were animals who were left to drown in New York University basement laboratories.

John Pippin, M.D., PCRM’s director of academic affairs and a former animal researcher, wrote to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to ask that NYU be investigated for its failure to adhere to basic provisions of the Animal Welfare Act. You can read Dr. Pippin’s letter below.

Many of the cruelties of animal laboratories are well-known. But what is less known is the vulnerability animals have to power failures, heat stroke, fire, and—yes—drowning. That is because they are often kept in basements or other cramped facilities with no means of escape when disasters strike. To the experimenters, they are little more than expendable equipment.

My colleagues at PCRM spend every day educating researchers about shifting from animal experiments to in-vitro tests, human-based studies, and other modern scientific methods. The sooner these new methods are wholeheartedly embraced, the better—for all of us.

Elizabeth Goldentyer, D.V.M.
Regional Director
USDA/APHIS/AC Eastern Region
920 Main Campus Dr., Suite 200
Raleigh, NC 27606
Submitted by e-mail (
Re: Veterinary Care at New York University School of Medicine

Dear Dr. Goldentyer:

On behalf of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, I request that the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service immediately investigate the drowning deaths of thousands of animals at the New York University School of Medicine during Hurricane Sandy in late October. According to news reports, as many as 10,000 animals drowned during a flood in the Smilow building at the NYU Langone Medical Center, which is affiliated with the NYU School of Medicine (NYUSOM).

Under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), NYUSOM meets the definition of a “research facility” and therefore must comply with the AWA and its implementing regulations. However, based on news reports, it appears that NYUSOM, whose registration certificate number is 21-R-0092, may have failed to comply with AWA regulations regarding “adequate veterinary care.” Those regulations mandate that “[e]ach research facility shall establish and maintain programs of adequate veterinary care that include . . . [t]he use of appropriate methods to prevent, control, diagnose, and treat diseases and injuries, and the availability of emergency, weekend, and holiday care[.]” 9 C.F.R. § 2.33(b)(2) (emphasis added).

Although the animals at NYUSOM may or may not have been included in the AWA’s coverage, the unintended deaths of thousands of NYUSOM’s research subjects strongly suggests that NYUSOM has not established an “adequate veterinary care” program—all the more so in light of the wide notice of Hurricane Sandy’s impending arrival.

Accordingly, PCRM requests that APHIS investigate this matter to 1) determine whether NYUSOM has established and maintains a program of adequate veterinary care that complies with the AWA and 2) impose, if appropriate, the maximum fines allowable under the law. Thank you for your attention to this matter.


John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C.
Director of Academic Affairs
Chair, Physician Steering Committee


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