USDA Warns University of Pennsylvania for Its Inadequate Veterinary Care of Animals Used In ResearchPosted by Stephanie Ulmer, Guest Blogger on November 16th, 2011
In August 2011, the University of Pennsylvania was issued an official warning letter for its "failure to establish programs of adequate veterinary care" for some of its research animals. According to a Philadelphia Inquirer article, the warning covered inspections from May 10, 2010, through July 20, 2011, and stated that “two dogs had interdigital cysts (often from standing on wire flooring), dirty and algae-filled water containers for four horses, and three gerbil deaths that occurred because of ‘unsuitable sipper tubes.’” It was also reported that any further violations could result in a civil penalty or criminal prosecution.
Worden also noted that Penn houses up to 5,000 animals a year at its medical and veterinary schools and that it has garnered 115 violations for the treatment of its research animals since 2008. That number is more than twice the number of violations found at Princeton University, which ranked as the second worst school in a survey of USDA inspection reports from 2008 to 2011. Penn has received at least $1.4 billion from the National Institutes of Health since 2008, and that amount for federal research funding is the highest of any Ivy League school. With research funding at stake, there have been recommendations that call for the USDA to formally sanction any schools for such violations and that the National Institutes of Health should pull research funding from any offending institutions.
There should absolutely be consequences for Penn for its continuing actions. These circumstances do not appear to be isolated incidents, and warnings do not seem to have the desired effect, as the university seems content to carry on the callous treatment of its research animals. Penn has issued a statement claiming, "we take these issues very seriously and have modified our program to correct the deficiencies noted during that period. We are continually working to improve our animal care program with the goal to eliminate any shortcomings that occur and prevent them from recurring.” Maybe if the funding for their research program was decreased, such incidents would decrease too. And the “goal” of proper treatment of the animals would finally be reached. Let’s make this a final warning to Penn and all the other institutions that conduct animal research.