The National Institutes of Health yesterday suspended its federal research funds for the Silver Spring medical lab raided by police last month for possible animal cruelty violations.
Acting NIH director Thomas E. Malone said funds remaining in a two-year, $221,932 grant for the Institute for Behavioral Research would be suspended indefinitely because the institute "failed in significant ways" to comply with NIH standards for animal use and care in its neurological research on 17 lab monkeys.
NIH officials said yesterday that a second, smaller NIH grant could be used until Oct. 23, but that the funds could be spent only to care for the monkeys, Malone said.
Members of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the animal rights group largely responsible for the Sept. 11 raid by Montgomery County police, said the NIH decision "completely confirms our charges." But Dr. Edward Taub, in charge of research for the lab, appeared undaunted and said he would appeal the NIH decision.
"Their findings are badly unbalanced and present a grossly inaccurate picture" of the situation at the lab, said Dr. Taub yesterday. Taub dismissed half of the NIH findings as legal technicalities and said the other half were in a gray area of interpretation "that I very strongly contest."
The NIH report released yesterday said an inspection of the lab showed that adequate veterinary care was not provided and that the lab's animal care committee failed to provide adequate oversight. In addition, the report said, the housing facilities for the monkeys were inadequate and the occupational health program for the lab staff was inadequate.
The fifth NIH charge was that the lab's condition the day of the raid, as depicted in police photos, was "grossly inadequate," but Taub countered by saying that NIH officials had been at the lab many times before the day of the raid and had described the monkeys' care in terms ranging from "adequate to glowing."
Dr. Taub has been charged with 15 misdemeanor counts based on Maryland's animal cruelty statute.