PETA: Univer­sity of Delaware con­tin­ues to abuse rats

Newark Post - - LOCAL NEWS - By BROOKE SCHULTZ bschultz@ches­pub.com

The Univer­sity of Delaware con­tin­ues to draw crit­i­cism from PETA for its treat­ment of lab­o­ra­tory rats.

The ad­vo­cacy group re­cently ac­quired cor­re­spon­dence be­tween the univer­sity and the fed­eral Of­fice of Lab­o­ra­tory An­i­mal Wel­fare that shows three in­ci­dents be­tween March 2016 and Septem­ber 2017 that re­sulted in the harm and death of rats be­ing used in ex­per­i­ments.

The crit­i­cism in­volves re­search con­ducted by sev­eral pro­fes­sors and re­searchers at the univer­sity.

“All three events men­tioned by PETA in a re­cent press re­lease were re­viewed and re­ported by the Univer­sity of Delaware to the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health (NIH) Of­fice of Lab­o­ra­tory An­i­mal Wel­fare (OLAW). In all in­stances, OLAW deemed the univer­sity’s ac­tions ap­pro­pri­ate with no fur­ther ac­tion re­quired,” UD spokesman Peter Bothum said in a pre­pared writ­ten state­ment.

Though the univer­sity sel­f­re­ported the in­ci­dents, the sit­u­a­tion is con­cern­ing, said Alka Chandna, vice pres­i­dent of Lab­o­ra­tory In­ves­ti­ga­tions Cases for PETA.

The let­ters show that in March 2016, an ex­per­i­ment us­ing 23 cages of rats to study ther­a­peu­tic mo­tor train­ing and fe­tal al­co­hol ef­fects, an un­named re­searcher vi­o­lated ex­per­i­ment pro­to­col by food-restrict­ing the rats for nine days. In ex­per­i­ments, re­searchers are re­quired to have their pro­to­col ap­proved by the In­sti­tu­tional An­i­mal Care and Use Com­mit­tee; food restric­tion was not orig­i­nally part of the ex­per­i­ment pa­ram­e­ters.

Ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ments, the re­searcher im­me­di­ately sub­mit­ted an amend­ment to the pro­to­col, which was ap­proved by IACUC.

In an­other in­ci­dent in Oc­to­ber 2016, a rat drowned dur­ing Dr. Anna Klintsova’s ex­per­i­ment study­ing a process that can be used to treat ex­ces­sive fear in rats. The doc­u­ments state that the in­di­vid­ual ad­min­is­ter­ing a forced-swim be­hav­ior test failed to mon­i­tor the rat. Forced-swim be­hav­ior tests place small an­i­mals, like rats, in a beaker or tight en­clo­sure with steep walls. The ex­per­i­menter times how long it takes be­fore the an­i­mal be­gins float­ing, at which point the an­i­mal is re­moved from the wa­ter.

The fi­nal in­ci­dent came in Au­gust 2017 when a fire dam­aged McKinly Lab­o­ra­tory, where 75 rats were be­ing used in Dr. Ta­nia Roth’s ex­per­i­ment test­ing the ef­fects of stress on neu­rode­vel­op­ment. Al­though they weren’t harmed in the fire it­self, the rats were eu­th­a­nized be­cause the ex­per­i­menter de­ter­mined they could no longer be used for the study.

In each case, the univer­sity ex­plained to OLAW how it plans to pre­vent sim­i­lar in­ci­dents from oc­cur­ring in the fu­ture. OLAW re­sponded to all of the univer­sity’s let­ters and stated that “the ac­tions taken by the in­sti­tu­tion com­ply with [Pub­lic Health Ser­vice] Pol­icy.”

Be­cause OLAW rarely in­spects fa­cil­i­ties, the sys­tem of self-re­port­ing is built on trust, Chandna said.

She noted that, of­ten, in­sti­tu­tions are mo­ti­vated to sel­f­re­port be­cause, as they’re re­liant on fed­eral fund­ing, “if they don’t self-re­port and NIH some­how finds out, there’s go­ing to be hell to pay then.”

Even still, Chandna said PETA’s find­ings are “prob­lem­atic.”

“If a per­son, an ex­per­i­menter, is not ad­her­ing to IACUC pro­to­col, that’s con­cern­ing,” Chandna said. “The fact that a rat drowned to death makes me won­der are the work­ers be­ing trained prop­erly? Are they not be­ing trained to know that they have to be con­cerned about an­i­mal wel­fare? Is there a cul­ture of dis­re­gard? Th­ese are three se­ri­ous vi­o­la­tions over pe­riod of seven months.”

PETA’s cam­paign con­cern­ing the univer­sity be­gan in April and has man­i­fested in sev­eral ways – in­clud­ing a bill­board stat­ing, “Cu­rios­ity abused the rat,” on Elk­ton Road leav­ing Ne­wark, and a protest out­side of McKinly Lab­o­ra­tory in July. Chandna said PETA plans to at­tend the univer­sity’s board of trustees meet­ing to ap­ply more pres­sure.

Fol­low­ing the find­ings, Chandna said that a vet from PETA con­tacted NIH re­gard­ing the grant money to en­sure that no tax dol­lars are be­ing used for ex­per­i­ments that re­sult in the harm or death of an­i­mals.

“Peo­ple will say, ‘But they’re only rats.’ That’s some­thing we hear a lot,” Chandna said. “That’s sort of a sad com­ment, that our em­pa­thy seems to be so lim­ited that we can’t ex­tend that em­pa­thy to small an­i­mals. I want to re­mind peo­ple that rats are mam­mals like we are; they feel pain, they suf­fer, they feel lonely .... There’s a lot more go­ing on there than we give them credit for. We shouldn’t dis­miss their suf­fer­ing just be­cause we don’t un­der­stand them.”

In its state­ment, the univer­sity said that it con­ducts “var­i­ous ex­per­i­ments that lead to ad­vance­ments in sci­ence and greatly ben­e­fit hu­man health, both phys­i­cal and men­tal” and that PETA is “mis­lead­ingly ac­cus[ing] the Univer­sity of not fol­low­ing [NIH] guide­lines.”

“The univer­sity takes ex­treme care and per­forms due dili­gence in those tri­als in­volv­ing an­i­mals, fol­low­ing pol­icy guide­lines set forth by the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health,” Bothum said. “Ad­di­tion­ally, the USDA An­i­mal and Plant Health In­spec­tion Ser­vice rou­tinely con­ducts in­spec­tions of an­i­mal re­search spa­ces at the Univer­sity. Dur­ing an in­spec­tion ear­lier this year, UD was found to be in full com­pli­ance with USDA reg­u­la­tions.”

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY BROOKE SCHULTZ

A group of protesters, led by PETA, or­ga­nize out­side of McKinly Lab­o­ra­tory in July to protest the re­search tech­niques of a Univer­sity of Delaware pro­fes­sor.

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