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University of Arizona Pressured to Investigate Animal Welfare Violations

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An animal rights organization has criticized the University of Arizona (UA) for allegedly ignoring animal welfare in certain research programs, resulting in the deaths of three rats and causing a temporary pause on surgical procedures involving mice. 

Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN), a national non-profit animal advocacy group, reportedly penned a letter to UA President Robert Robbins to start an investigation into the incidents last year involving animal research.

SAEN Co-Founder Michael Budkie also called for the termination of the research projects responsible for the incidents and prohibiting the staff involved from future animal-related work. 

Questionable Animal Welfare Practices

UA reported several incidents to the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare highlighting the adverse effects its research programs had on animal quality of life at their facilities. 

One incident took place during an inspection of the school’s animal facilities when a primary research worker was caught performing surgeries on mice with tools that had not been properly prepped and sanitized. The worker also had not kept surgical records. 

As a response, UA temporarily stopped all surgical activities until all involved workers had received proper training.

Another incident occurred in the facility’s necropsy room in which three rats were in such an unhealthy condition that veterinary staff suggested euthanasia to the researcher. But the report submitted to the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare stated that the researcher did not follow the recommendation and left the sick rats in the room after hours. 

When the situation was brought to light, the researcher apologized, citing miscommunication. The rats were immediately euthanized by veterinary staff following the incident. 

Research Misconduct

However, problems do not end there. The Office of Research Integrity of the US Department of Health and Human Services conducted a separate investigation and found that UA Professor Charles Downs engaged in misconduct, falsifying images and bar graphs in his grant applications. 

Downs did not comment when the allegations were brought to him. But SAEN’s Budkie expressed that research misconduct allegations are rare, putting UA in a precarious position. 

“The University of Arizona has a very serious systemwide problem, because it’s not solely that there was a finding of research misconduct,” he said.

“It’s not solely that there was a case where animals died in violation of the animal welfare act. It’s not solely that there were problems with how surgical procedures were being performed. It’s all of those things.”

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