The University of Oklahoma has received over $19,000 in fines from the US Department of Agriculture after being cited for animal testing violations in experiments conducted by the university’s Health Sciences Center.
Citations by the USDA include failure to follow research protocols, failure to administer pain relief to animals in connection to surgical procedures and inadequate veterinary care.
Examples of violations include guinea pigs that bled to death, several rabbits that underwent procedures without the proper administration of approved pain reliever buprenorphine and the hosing down of baby baboons.
The USDA claims that there were at least eleven incidents in 2014 and 2015.
This is not the first time the University of Oklahoma has been accused of animal testing violations. The school had previously been cited by federal regulators for abuse of baby baboons. This prompted OU President Boren to announce in September that the school would “wind down” the baboon program, and end it in the next three to four years.
This program involves baboons of all ages kept at a reserve in El Reno, Oklahoma.
According to Dr. James Tomasek of the university’s Health Sciences Center, these animals were used for “vaccine development for infectious diseases, organ transplantation and treatments for septic shock, cancer anemia, vision and aging.”
The school also faced citations for killing dogs by applying a “9-volt battery … to the heart,” according to a report by USDA inspector Jeffrey Baker.
“It’s pretty shocking to see that a university of that caliber has those kinds of practices in place,” Susana Della Maddalena with the Central Oklahoma Humane Society remarked. “We hope the university does the right thing and does it quickly.”
Animal rights group Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! has taken part in investigation of the university, and has raised several complaints against OU over the past few years.
Michael A. Budkie, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! stated that “The University of Oklahoma has demonstrated an almost unparalleled ability to violate federal regulations and policies, resulting in a death toll which includes dogs, baboons and now guinea pigs. The long-term pattern of violations, non-compliances, and negligent fatalities raises serious doubts about every single OU animal experiment.”
The University of Oklahoma recently released a response to local Norman news station KFOR:
“The University of Oklahoma takes seriously its obligation to comply with all federal and regulatory standards related to animal welfare and scientific research,” the statement read. “Any deviations from those standards that are identified by the University or brought to the University’s attention are addressed immediately, and corrective actions are implemented swiftly. The University has provided such a response to the USDA and will continue to work with USDA representatives as appropriate to demonstrate its commitment to a program that meets and exceeds national standards.”
In his own statement, Dr. Tomasek of the Health Sciences Center stated that the Center will take additional steps to address the issues:
“[OU] holds in the highest regard its responsibility to comply with all federal and regulatory standards related to animal welfare, and to ensure humane and ethical treatment of any animals used in research and education,” Tomasek said. “The Health Sciences Center has implemented comprehensive corrective actions in response to each of the incidents identified by the USDA as part of its internal compliance review.”