Thursday, July 19, 2007

AAALAC: Fool's Gold

Another AAALAC accedited facility, the University of Connecticut Health Center, has been fined by USDA for violations of the Animal Wefare Act.

FDA says: "Achievement of full-accredited status through AAALAC is considered to be the "Gold Standard" in laboratory animal care."

Dr. Michael Hart, director of Laboratory Animal Health at Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine says, "[AAALAC] is considered the “gold standard” in the care and use of animals in science."

Lab Animal News says, "Over the span of three decades, more precisely, is how long it’s taken AAALAC’s program of accrediting research animal facilities to become recognized as the gold standard of quality assurance by stakeholders in the laboratory animal science community."

Fool's Gold

Federal Fine For UConn Health Center: Animal Research Violations Included Care Of Monkeys That Had Holes Drilled In Skulls

By GRACE E. MERRITT Courant Staff Writer
July 19, 2007

FARMINGTON - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has fined the University of Connecticut Health Center $5,532 for animal care violations, including several charges tied to the handling of lab monkeys whose heads were drilled as part of a neuroscience experiment.

The USDA fined the health center last month for seven violations found during inspections in October 2006 and January 2007. Federal inspectors criticized the health center for failing to identify injections of non-approved substances, inadequate training of personnel, and failing to handle the monkeys "in a manner that did not cause stress, trauma and unnecessary discomfort," according to the report.

The agency also cited the health center for using outdated drugs and animal food and for keeping animals in a dirty room with peeling paint.

UConn spokeswoman Carolyn Pennington confirmed that the health center had been fined, and she said the fine had already been paid. She also pointed out that last week the health center received full accreditation from the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International, a private nonprofit organization that promotes humane treatment of animals in science.

Jim Rogers, spokesman for the USDA's animal and plant health inspection service, said Wednesday that the USDA has not yet received the payment, but that in general an investigation is considered closed once a fine is paid.

The USDA began investigating the health center after animal-rights activist Justin Goodman, a UConn graduate student, filed a 40-page complaint last September about the treatment of the rhesus monkeys involved in the neuroscience project.

As part of the experiment, researchers drilled holes into the monkeys' skulls to implant steel coils in their brains to record eye movements. The research was designed to help clinicians diagnose and treat stroke, progressive supranuclear palsy and other diseases. The researcher, David Waitzman, voluntarily stopped the experiment last August. Two of the three monkeys involved in the project died.

Goodman launched a campaign to stop the research, at one point chaining himself to a railing during the university's 250th anniversary celebration.

"I'm glad that the USDA finally took action against the UConn Health Center and David Waitzman," Goodman said. "However, a fine of $5,500 is hardly enough to get the health center to change the way its animal care program operates. It's a slap on the wrist."

Five years ago, the USDA fined UConn's main campus $129,500 for violating the federal Animal Welfare Act on charges that the university abused research animals, leading to the death of 22 naked mole rats and a rabbit. The university admitted to the violations and agreed to change procedures for dealing with research animals.

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