After PETA unearthed a slew of federal case files documenting almost unimaginable suffering and death at the hands of experimenters at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), we’re calling on the agency to implement a zero-tolerance policy for experimenters who fail to comply with approved protocols and directives from veterinary staff. We’re also calling for a zero-tolerance policy for animal husbandry staff at NIH who fail to provide animals with necessities such as food, water, and safe shelter.
As a federal agency, NIH is fully funded through tax dollars—receiving more than $41 billion in the fiscal year 2020. Its experimenters must be informed that failure to comply with minimum animal welfare laws and guidelines undermines crucial public faith in the agency and public trust in the system of oversight of NIH laboratories that use animals.
Federal reports document serious animal welfare violations in the government laboratories at NIH, including the following:
- Employees’ ongoing negligence resulted in the deaths of 19 mice in six separate incidents because experimenters had failed to provide them with access to food and/or water.
- Seven mice died after exposure to extreme heat of at least 90 degrees while trapped inside a cage. Heat exposure in mice would likely have caused a systemic inflammatory response, which would have resulted in pain and distress as well as multiple organ failure.
- A mouse went unnoticed inside an enrichment tube of a cage and was scalded to death when the cage was run through a mechanical, high-temperature cage washer.
- Twenty mice were injected with an overdose of insulin, against protocol, and died or were euthanized.
- A mouse with an infected, necrotic complete uterine prolapse was inappropriately treated with ointment and kept alive rather than being immediately euthanized per institutional policy.
- NIH experimenters repeatedly failed to follow approved euthanasia protocols in the agency’s laboratories. A juvenile mouse was found alive inside a refrigerator after experimenters failed to follow approved euthanasia protocols, and one mouse was found still alive in a carbon dioxide gas chamber while the gas flow was shut off.
- Live baby mice were thrown out with the trash. They were discovered inside a clear trash bag containing discarded bedding material from cage changes and were killed.
This isn’t the first time that PETA has pulled back the curtain on violations in NIH’s laboratories.
Such problems will continue unless a strong deterrent is implemented and a path is forged for moving forward that optimizes our nation’s investment in biomedical research to cure disease, while eliminating ineffective experiments on animals.
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