LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — A group opposed to experiments on animals says a Louisiana university should be fined $30,000 because heat stroke apparently killed three research monkeys in different outdoor cages on the same day last summer.
The Ohio-based group Stop Animal Exploitation Now issued a news release about the deaths at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s New Iberia Research Center.
“I am appalled that ULL negligence allowed three monkeys to die unnecessarily,” Michael A. Budkie, the group’s co-founder said in the release.
The university said in a statement that the school and its staff are “diligent in the care” of primates at the New Iberia Research Center and follow federal rules.
The school took timely and appropriate action following the deaths Aug. 5, which were promptly reported by phone a day afterward and in a letter Aug. 26, wrote Brent C. Morse, compliance oversight director for the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare in the National Institutes of Health.
Budkie’s request for an investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is based on the Aug. 26 report by research center director Francois Villinger, which it received under a Freedom of Information Act request.
Villinger wrote that the center’s staff was providing sprinklers or misters and frozen juice in the afternoons to help the rhesus monkeys stay cool. The animals had lived outdoors in Alice, Texas, which has a climate similar to New Iberia’s, and other animals from the same place had settled in without problems during similar weather, so the staff could not have anticipated the deaths, he wrote.
The animals were brought outside between 8 and 9:10 a.m., watched for 1 to 2 1/2 hours, and checked again at 12:30 p.m., when the three dead monkeys were found, he wrote. He said necropsy results “strongly suggested” heat stroke.
“The ambient temperatures were comfortable for that time of year, with a humidity of 60% and 80-83 degrees Fahrenheit” — 26.7 to 28.3 degrees Celsius) — Villinger wrote.
However, Budkie said, the thermometer had hit 93 Fahrenheit (33.9 Celsius) by noon.
“It is absurd that ULL staff failed to take precautions when acclimating new animals on a day where the temperature reached 93 degrees Fahrenheit,” he said. His statement did not mention specific precautions.
Villinger wrote in August that the center has also taken additional measures that include setting out wading pools and sprinklers in outdoor cages in the summer, as well as arranging cages from which monkeys being introduced to each other can move from an outdoor area to air-conditioned indoor space.
Previous USDA investigations have resulted in the university paying $158,571 since 2007, including $100,000 in 2017, Budke noted. The 2017 payment settled several complaints, and the university did not admit any wrongdoing at the research center.