University of Oklahoma accused of abusing research baboons

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NORMAN, Okla. -- The University of Oklahoma is accused of abusing research animals, yet again, after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspects primate enclosures at the Health Sciences Center.

This is the most recent in a slew of violations over the past couple years reported by the USDA, now animal right's groups are demanding that action be taken.

"It's pretty shocking to see that a university of that caliber has those kinds of practices in place," said Susana DellaMaddalena with the Central Oklahoma Humane Society. "We hope the university does the right thing and does it quickly."

According to the inspection report from late January, three baboons were found drenched in one enclosure, with one left 'shivering and distressed.'

A second enclosure filled with baby baboons, had a build up of 'grime, debris' and excrement on the walls and bars.

Yet another enclosure was found directly beneath a dripping faucet, with two primates inside.

The report claims employees 'did not appear to be aware of Animal Welfare Act requirements for sanitizing procedures.'

The group 'Stop Animal Exploitation NOW' (SAEN) has been following the situation closely, and reports that the university has violated USDA procedure 16 times since 2013.

"Their administration is not sufficiently monitoring what their research staff is doing... and if it happened once, what's going to stop it from happening again?' said Michael Budkie with SAEN.

Those remarks were made nearly two years ago, when the USDA learned of research dogs being euthanized, by shocking their hearts with a 9-volt battery at the Health Sciences Center.

SAEN is now calling for a federal fine against the university.

Since the news broke, a petition has started circulating online demanding the lab be shut down.

Officials at OU sent KFOR the following statement:

'The University of Oklahoma takes seriously its obligation to comply with all federal and regulatory standards related to animal welfare and scientific research.  Any deviations from those standards that are identified by the University or brought to the University’s attention are addressed immediately, and corrective actions are implemented swiftly. The University has provided such a response to the USDA and will continue to work with USDA representatives as appropriate to demonstrate its commitment to a program that meets and exceeds national standards.  

OU’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee is comprised of experts in animal welfare from both within the University and external to the University. This committee requires continual training of Principal Investigators – the scientists who conduct and oversee studies – and their staff.  Each Principal Investigator agrees in writing to perform all research, testing, and teaching that involves animals in accordance with scientific protocols that have been reviewed and approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.  OU expects its employees to comply with the established standards, approved protocols, and regulations at all times, and the University addresses internally and individually any failure to do so.

As part of its program to ensure ongoing compliance, the University employs a licensed Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, with expertise in Laboratory Animal Medicine, who is dedicated to overseeing training of all Principal Investigators and research staff members, to strengthening their education and understanding related to regulatory matters and ethical and responsible animal research, and to ensuring and assisting with their adherence to approved protocols.'

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