Animal rights group wants MSU fined over research monkeys

A national animal rights group has accused Montana State University of failing to protect the health of monkeys used in brain research, demanding a federal fine after another monkey got the same kind of infection that earlier had killed two research primates.

The Ohio-based Stop Animal Exploitation Now! charged that while MSU claimed to have cleaned up its program, new federal documents show that another animal came down with the same serious infection in August 2016 that had previously killed two monkeys.

Michael Budkie, SAEN co-founder, announced in an email that his group has filed a second complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture demanding a repeat citation for negligence and urging the maximum penalty of $10,000 for each violation.

“SAEN’s investigation has proven that the USDA’s official warning against Montana State University was not sufficient to force it to comply with federal law,” Budkie said. “It’s time for a major penalty against MSU.”

MSU spokesman Tracy Ellig responded that the the USDA has been aware of all matters involving these animals and believes MSU has taken appropriate corrective action.

“As soon as MSU detected an infection in the animal it took immediate steps. Those steps led to the animal’s infection clearing up and the animal gaining weight and having a full recovery,” Ellig said.

MSU’s animal research is advancing science on ailments such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, attention deficit disorder, schizophrenia and autism, Ellig said.

He added that the research carries with it risks to the research animals.

Last year, responding to the first reports of animal illnesses and deaths, MSU said it had taken action to correct the problems and its Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee adopted more rigorous procedures to protect research animals.

In that case, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service report found that in 2015, three animals got infections in their surgical implants. Despite immediate treatment, two died. One recovered. The inspection report cited two problems: adequate veterinary care and supplies and antibiotics being out of date.

Budkie, whose group monitors USDA inspection reports, rejected the idea that MSU cares about research monkeys.

“If you have respect for an animal, do you do an experiment on them against their will, bolting devices into their skulls, confining them to a primate chair, connecting electrodes?” he asked.

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