Document reports monkey deaths at Louisiana research center

Louisiana
New Iberia Research Center

New Iberia Research Center

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Five dehydrated baby monkeys died or were euthanized in July at a University of Louisiana research center, according to a federal inspection report made public this week.

Four of the rhesus macaques became dehydrated after a water pressure regulator malfunctioned July 20 at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s New Iberia Research Center, according to the Aug. 26 report.

The school and its staffers “are diligent in the care provided to animals at the New Iberia Research Center,” university spokesman Eric Maron said in an email Thursday.

The care meets or exceeds standards set by federal agencies and organizations such as the American Association for Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care, he said Friday.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector labeled the July 20 incident a critical violation of a requirement for “reliable running potable water” but wrote that the university has worked to correct the problem.

The report was made public Thursday in a USDA inspection database, said Michael Budkie, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now!, an Ohio-based group opposed to animal experiments.

He asked the agriculture department on Thursday to fine the school $50,000 for those deaths. Budkie also repeated a request made in January to fine the university $30,000 for the apparent heat deaths of three adult monkeys last year.

“It is simply unconscionable that ULL staff is incapable of effectively monitoring primates, noticing issues only when the animals are either dead, or unresponsive,” he wrote to Robert Gibbens, director of animal welfare operations for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

The school reported the 2020 deaths promptly and took timely corrective action, a federal compliance oversight director wrote in a letter provided by the university in January.

Maron said the research center has checked water pressure daily since the July deaths and is setting up an automatic alarm to alert staffers if water pressure drops.

Inspector Annette Chapman wrote that the center also was providing monkeys with “more high-water content supplements” and was scheduling two inspections a day for infant monkeys in its studies.

Pressure was normal in water dispensers when a baby monkey was found dehydrated on Aug. 19 and euthanized the same day, she wrote. Its mother was normally hydrated but was “underconditioned,” the inspector said.

The report did not indicate why or how that infant became dehydrated. Regular daily checks on July 19 didn’t find any other cases, Chapman wrote.

Asked Friday about that incident, Maron wrote, “The mechanical issue began as an intermittent failure of the equipment.”

Five more infants were found dehydrated on July 20. Two were dead, two were euthanized after treatment failed to improve their condition and the fifth recovered, Chapman wrote.

In 2017, the university paid $100,000 to settle six complaints about its primate lab but did not admit any wrongdoing.

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