An Ohio-based animal rights group has filed a second complaint against Oregon State University, claiming the university violated the federal Animal Welfare Act in the deaths of seven animals used in teaching or research.
Stop Animal Exploitation Now! (SAEN) filed the complaint this week with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, asking the agency to investigate its claims of mistreatment and negligence in the deaths of two cows, four lambs and one ewe between February 2017 and September 2018.
SAEN asks the department to fine Oregon State $10,000 per infraction per animal, the maximum allowed by law.
OSU disputes the animal rights group’s claims, saying the university takes good care of its animals and has done nothing wrong.
Using documents obtained from OSU through a public records request, SAEN claims university employees failed to properly care for a dairy cow that was suffering from an advanced case of mastitis; failed to prevent the death of another cow that choked in a headlock at the dairy barn; failed to properly protect four lambs that were killed by predators; and failed to provide adequate medical care to a ewe that died following surgery.
SAEN filed a separate complaint in January in which it asked USDA to fine the university over five surgeries on sheep in November 2017 that violated rules governing animal experimentation.
None of the noncompliant surgeries resulted in the death of an animal, and the university self-reported the violations to USDA.
The surgeries were performed by a faculty member and a student anesthetist whose names were not listed on the research protocol, and two of the procedures were done after the protocol expired. There were also recordkeeping issues, and departmental rules were broken in obtaining drugs used in the procedures. The faculty member also failed to disclose information about two noncompliant surgeries, resulting in disciplinary action by the university.
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Michael Budkie, SAEN’s executive director, said the deaths cited in the current complaint are a sign that Oregon State is not living up to its obligations under the Animal Welfare Act.
“To us, it demonstrates that they are violating federal law. These kinds of deaths simply should not have happened,” he said.
“Our hope is that USDA will take action and levy a significant fine against OSU.”
OSU Vice President Steve Clark defended the university’s record in caring for animals.
Oregon State oversees the care and treatment of animals at the university through its Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee and an attending veterinarian, Clark said, and is in compliance with the Animal Welfare Act and requirements of research funding entities such as USDA, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.
He also noted that the deaths cited in the complaint represent a tiny fraction of the total number of animals Oregon State keeps for research and teaching purposes.
“OSU conducts hundreds of research and teaching activities annually. In this work, we care for thousands of animals, birds, amphibians and reptiles, and millions of fish,” he wrote in an email to the newspaper.
“These cases represent unforeseen impacts to (seven) of the more than 12,000 animals in OSU’s care.”
Clark said the death of the ewe following surgery cited in the most recent SAEN complaint was not related to the other surgeries on sheep that were the subject of the first complaint.
A USDA spokesman acknowledged that the agency was reviewing a complaint filed against Oregon State by SAEN but declined to say whether an investigation had been opened. The spokesman said no disciplinary action has been taken against the university.
Reporter Bennett Hall can be reached at 541-758-9529 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bennetthallgt.