The Vanderbilt University Research Administration has suspended an animal experiment and a scientist from all “live hands-on animal work” after multiple animals died throughout the protocol.

The document fully detailing the incidents was obtained and publicized by Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! (SAEN), an Ohio-based watchdog that monitors US research facilities for illegal activities and animal abuse.

While SAEN made this public only last January 12, the incident occurred in August 2020.

Guinea Pig Deaths Due to ‘Failed Ventilator Testing Procedures’

The document found by SAEN revealed that five guinea pigs had died or were euthanized because of “failed ventilator testing procedures” conducted on August 17 and 18.

Executive Director of SAEN, Michael Budkie, expressed his concern over how the guinea pigs may have suffocated.

The document also revealed that the Principal Investigator (PI) did not report the unexpected deaths to the relevant authorities, such as the Division of Animal Care (DAC) Veterinary Faculty or the Institutional Animal Care And Use Committee (IACUC). 

The PI also did not share the date, time, or nature of the procedures with either the DAC Veterinary Faculty or VUMC Surgical Research Training personnel. 

As a result, “Observation of the procedures by a veterinarian or the surgical research personnel did not occur as outlined in the approved protocol and required in separate written correspondence from the IACUC to the PI.”

Suspension of Protocol and PI ‘Rare’

Budkie noted that suspending a protocol is “relatively rare,” while the permanent prohibition of a PI from all animal work is “virtually unheard of.” 

The IACUC ruled for the suspension until the protocol can be transferred to a new and willing PI, and until the new PI can meet with the committee to discuss additional requirements. 

The complaint also cited Vanderbilt University’s “history of denying veterinary care to animals,” highlighting two incidents gone wrong in the past: one in which six rabbits suffered from severe eye irritation in February 2020, and another when 17 gerbils died due to improper anesthesia in June 2019.