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Animal rights group says U of R neglects lab mice

May 3, 2018

Are lab mice at the University of Rochester being mistreated and dying from neglect?

That’s the claim at the center of a report by SAEN, (Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! )

This week, Executive Director Michael Budkie wrote University Interim President Richard Feldman, asking that the administration there launch an independent investigation into the treatment of lab animals there.

“There were a number of different issues directly affecting animals,” said Budkie. “In one instance, approximately 80 animals were supposed to receive significantly more pain relief than they actually did. Living animals were found in what the University itself called the morgue freezer.”

Budkie is discussing one researcher’s major surgery on mice. According to Jeff Wyatt, a veterinarian with the University, the researcher didn’t keep up with the analgesic therapy. The researcher says he didn’t observe the mice in any pain but Wyatt says this against the lab’s protocol. They try to overmedicate after major surgeries on the off-chance the animal doesn’t show typical signs of pain.

The school’s Committee on Animal Resources is in charge of deciding what research projects can use animal testing and they also hold researchers accountable for mistakes.

And the mice in the freezer?

Those were actually baby mice who’d been found in the “morgue cooler." They were found alive and immediately properly euthanized but an investigator with the committee was required to lead a workshop on proper euthanasia.

Other issues include: improper record keeping for mice used in influenza work, an untrained lab employee gaining access to a mouse and then not admitting he got it from the lab, and lack of food or water for one group of mice.  All of these issues were documented by the UR committee and resolved, whether through better care by another employee or holding the researcher accountable and requiring more training. 

But Budkie says he has no faith in the committee: “We do not have a tremendous amount of faith in those committees because they are typically made up of entirely of employees in the laboratory and their real functionality is to primarily approve protocols and they’re very biased in this process.”

Wyatt says the school’s committee includes more than just employees; there's also a retired school teacher, a librarian and veterinarians on the team.

He says they currently have no plans to change policy or respond to Budkie’s report because they’ve already satisfied large funders like the National Institute of Health. He says the committee takes animal welfare seriously and has been rigorous in documenting and investigating any issues that spring up.