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University of Memphis pays USDA fine over alleged animal welfare issues

By meerna Jul11,2024
University of Memphis pays USDA fine over alleged animal welfare issues

The University of Memphis has reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture over allegations of violating the Animal Welfare Act. Under the settlement, the institution paid a civil penalty of $15,100.

The complaints against U of M were filed by SAEN (Stop Animal Exploitation Now), an Ohio-based nonprofit that monitors U.S. organizations, such as universities, that use animals in research. According to the USDA document, U of M allegedly violated the Animal Welfare Act multiple times between 2022 and 2024, resulting in the deaths of 12 voles, 15 mole rats, two hamsters and a house finch.

An AU of M spokesperson provided the following statement: “The University of Memphis takes its research responsibilities seriously, and the University of Memphis Animal Care and Use Program is committed to ensuring the humane and ethical use of animals in research, in compliance with all applicable regulations, laws, and university policies.”

More information can be found on the university website.

The first alleged violation occurred on or around April 1, 2022, when “the HVAC system in the Life Sciences Building malfunctioned overnight,” causing reduced ventilation and increased temperatures, leading to the deaths of 12 voles.

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According to the USDA document, the U of M failed to provide adequate ventilation in its facilities to prevent animal discomfort. The university also allegedly failed to provide fresh air through windows, doors, vents, fans or air conditioning.

The second alleged violation occurred in the summer of 2022. Between July 19 and Aug. 22 of this year, 15 naked mole rats were euthanized by the U of M for medical reasons or found dead. An animal care technician said the mole rats had recently been fighting and seemed agitated. The U of M attributed the fighting and deaths to an environmental stressor — potential causes included the quiet noise of a dehumidifier in the room and a lighting failure that left the mole rats exposed to 24 hours of continuous light.

The document alleges that the University of Michigan allegedly failed to handle the animals as carefully as possible in a manner that would not cause injury, overheating, overcooling, behavioral distress, physical harm or unnecessary discomfort.

Another violation occurred in September 2023. U of M found a dwarf hamster with its front paw stuck in the top grid of its enclosure. Although the hamster received treatment, the paw appeared to have permanent damage and was humanely euthanized by a veterinarian.

The document says the University of Michigan allegedly failed to ensure that the hamster enclosures were structurally sound and well-maintained.

In January 2024, a second hamster was found with its foot stuck in the top grid of its enclosure. This hamster also suffered an injury that required euthanasia, and the incident led to another alleged violation.

That was followed by an incident in March 2024 that led to another alleged violation. The U of M found a dead house finch with one of its toes stuck in a gap between the side and back panels of its cage. The USDA said the university failed to construct and maintain enclosures that would have protected the birds from injury.

John Klyce is an education and children’s affairs writer for The Commercial Appeal. You can reach him at [email protected].

By meerna

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