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Physicians Sue California University for Violating Animal Welfare Law

PCRM helped six California physicians take a stand against state funds being used for cruel animal experiments that are both illegal and not scientifically valid. These doctors filed suit against the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), for using taxpayer dollars to pay fines for violating the Animal Welfare Act and continuing experiments that are often duplicative and not applicable to humans.

Pia Salk, Psy.D., Dan Kinburn, Esq., and Larry Hansen, M.D.The lawsuit was filed July 31 in Superior Court of the state of California with legal counsel from PCRM. Lead plaintiff Pia Salk, Psy.D., is the co-founder of Animal Rescue New Orleans and niece of Jonas Salk, creator of the first polio vaccine. Larry Hansen, M.D., professor of neurosciences and pathology at University of California, San Diego, and four other area physicians joined her as plaintiffs.

Over the past decade, government inspectors have repeatedly documented serious violations of the Animal Welfare Act at UCSF, and in 2005, the university was fined $92,500—reportedly the fourth-largest settlement amount ever paid for violations of this nature. Under California law, taxpayers are entitled to sue if state resources are funding illegal activities and being used to pay the resulting fines. The lawsuit asks the Superior Court to cut off the funding for these experiments until UCSF can come into compliance with the law.

The suit focuses on very invasive UCSF experiments involving macaque monkeys. One study involved researchers drilling holes in the monkeys’ skulls, bolting metal restraining devices into their heads, and using attached data recording devices to track their eye movements and brain function while the monkeys “worked” to receive rewards such as water. This experiment causes great pain and stress to the animals. And according to Dr. Hansen, a neurologist who specializes in Alzheimer’s disease, it won’t yield results applicable to humans. “The experimenter invokes the potential for alleviating Alzheimer’s disease, but the neural system he studies is not even involved in Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Hansen said.

The other plaintiffs for this lawsuit are Nancy Harrison, M.D., a private practice pathologist who completed her residency at University of California, San Diego; Richard Mc Lellan, M.D., a retired physician specializing in emergency medicine; Mark Niblack, M.D., a retired anesthesiologist; and Jacquelyn Wilson, M.D., D.A.B.F.M., a consultant physician in integrative medicine. As of press time, PCRM is waiting for UCSF’s answer to the complaint. The plaintiffs will then seek discovery, which allows the plaintiffs to question researchers and administrators at UCSF under oath and review their files.


PCRM Online, September 2007

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