Harvard Medical School is cited
for mistreatment of lab animals

In less than two years, four monkeys have died in labs at Harvard Medical School, including one that was left in a cage as the cage went through a mechanical washer. The most recent death occurred this spring, when a cotton-top tamarin monkey died of thirst for lack of a water bottle.

In addition, 41 deer mice died in April at a Harvard facility after their water source was cut off.

The Department of Agriculture has given the medical school an official warning for violating the U.S. Animal Welfare Act.

“When you see multiple incidents at the same facility over a period of time, that’s when you realize that this is indicative of a system-wide problem,” said Michael Budkie, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now!

Harvard University made the nonprofit group’s top-10 list of animal-welfare violators for the first half of 2012, along with Harvard Medical School. The two institutions have separate licenses from the USDA to use animals for research and testing.

The Animal Welfare Act, enforced by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, or APHIS, requires labs to handle research animals as carefully as possible to prevent trauma, overheating, physical harm, behavioral stress or unnecessary discomfort.

APHIS also is investigating the death of five monkeys at the Harvard-affiliated New England Primate Research Center, said USDA spokesman David Sacks. The center’s interim director, Frederick Wang, stepped down in March after the death of the tamarin monkey.

In March, Harvard Medical School Dean Jeffrey S. Flier ordered an independent review panel to evaluate the management and care of animals used in experiments. The panel’s recommendations included the appointment of a veterinarian and biosafety officer to oversee the primate center and the development of “new approaches” to its oversight process.

Patrick Cole, Bloomberg News