NORMAN, Okla. – A national research watchdog group is calling for a new federal probe against the University of Oklahoma after the 2017 death of a baboon.
Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN), an Ohio-based nonprofit watchdog group that monitors U.S. research facilities for illegal activity and animal abuse, submitted an official complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday, stating the death of the baboon violates the Animal Welfare Act.
A letter from the university to the National Institutes of Health, Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, on January 16, 2018, states “On December 14, 2017, animal care staff observed a multiparous adult female baboon in a social group corral with no prior history of illness or injury as lethargic and reported the observation to veterinary staff. Subsequent to administering ketamine, the animal expired; resuscitative efforts were unsuccessful.”
The letter goes on to say “A necropsy revealed a foreign body, a 1-inch (approximate) splinter from a fiberglass resting board, which had apparently been ingested and migrated through the stomach wall, ultimately serving at the presumptive cause of death.”
Following the baboon’s death, school officials said veterinary staff conducted an investigation and identified the probable resting board, located at the highest position in the corral, approximately 12-14 feet above the ground. They then removed the affected section of the resting board, and all evaluated all other boards.
Facility records were also reviewed and care staff were interviewed, who “reported no observation of issues with the resting boards or other material that could have contributed to the event.”
An initial report of noncompliance, dated January 1, 2018, shows the baboon “chewed on ‘TREX’ shelving and ingested shards of plastic leading to peritonitis and death.”
In the past, the University of Oklahoma has been accused of abusing baboons in its research program.
According to the inspection report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture from late January 2015, three baboons were found drenched in one enclosure, with one left ‘shivering and distressed.’
A second enclosure was reportedly filled with baby baboons, had a build up of ‘grime, debris’ and excrement on the walls and bars.
Back in September of 2015, then OU President David Boren announced that the OU Health Sciences Center would wind down operations over the next three to four years, which would ultimately end the Baboon Program.
A statement from the university in 2015 stated, “The University is committed to treating baboons humanely and with a high level of care throughout the transition to ensure that baboons will not be adversely affected by these changes.”
However, with a recent baboon death, SAEN says they’re complaint calls for a new federal probe of OU, and the maximum federal penalty of $10,000 per infraction/per animal.
“University of Oklahoma negligence continues and a baboon has paid for it with her life,” said Michael A. Budkie, A.H.T., Co-founder SAEN. “This lab should get the maximum penalty, nothing else will prevent further deaths.”