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Feds Cite Emory University and Primate Center for Violations of Animal Welfare Laws

Government documents obtained by PETA show that Emory University and the affiliated Emory National Primate Research Center, formerly known as the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, have routinely failed to comply with minimal animal welfare regulations and guidelines in their laboratories—where vulnerable animals have endured almost unimaginable pain and misery.

Monkeys have died from starvation, strangulation, suffocation, heatstroke, asphyxiation from their own vomit, self-mutilation, being scalded to death after a cage was placed in an automated washer while the animal was still inside, trauma and shock, and sepsis. Inspection reports reveal that monkeys suffered from debilitating pain and in one case died after gauze was left in the animal’s abdomen during experimental surgery. A 7-month-old female monkey died after being left behind and forgotten inside an unattended cage. And a juvenile monkey had to be euthanized after a rubber band around his wrist—used to restrain him while he was being tattooed with an identification number—became embedded in his body because staff had neglected to remove it.

Between 1997 and 2005, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) fined Yerkes $17,375 for a litany of serious animal welfare violations. In 2007, the facility was ordered to pay $15,000 by an administrative law judge for “willful violations” of the federal Animal Welfare Act, including an incident in which a squirrel monkey was sent through a boiling-hot industrial cage washer while she was still locked inside and another incident in which personnel restrained monkeys with duct tape.

USDA Inspection Reports

January 16, 2024 (four violations, one critical), Whitehead Biomedical Research Building: A gerbil jumped out of an enclosure when its lid was removed by a staffer during a routine task, landing on the floor and sustaining multiple fractures to his legs. He was later euthanized. In addition, experimenters didn’t seek alternatives to five painful procedures: a craniotomy, a durotomy, an intracranial surgery, the surgical insertion of probes, and a retro-orbital intravenous injection. Guinea pigs were housed at temperatures of 5°C and 10°C for seven days, which is a departure from what’s prescribed by the federal Animal Welfare Act and wasn’t included in the annual report to the USDA. Finally, a pig’s snout was injured during transport, likely by a sharp corner on a metal plate in the transport cage.

February 15, 2023 (two violations, one critical), Yerkes: A vole was found dead outside a plastic bag in a freezer following an incomplete euthanasia procedure. The vole had crawled out of the bag before dying. Also, a literature search for alternatives to using animals didn’t include all the painful and distressful procedures in two experiments that both involved a craniotomy and the use of foot shocks in behavior testing.

February 14, 2023 (three violations, one critical), Yerkes: A 2-year-old primate was found dead after her head got stuck in a gap at the base of a wall dividing two outdoor cages. The gap had been caused by weather erosion, and the cage hadn’t been maintained. Excessive rust on outdoor chimpanzee cages had affected the structural integrity of the enclosures’ bars, leading some of them to crumble away. Additionally, 11 weeks had passed between the sanitization of indoor primate enclosures after the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee approved allowing workers to skip cage sanitizations for up to 12 weeks due to staff shortages. Federal animal welfare regulations require cage sanitization every two weeks.

August 23, 2022 (one violation), Yerkes: In two indoor primate compounds, clusters of cockroaches filled corners and nooks throughout exposed parts of walls and were seen walking along the top of wall panels.

September 20, 2021 (three violations, one critical), Yerkes: A 2-year-old female rhesus macaque was found dead in her outdoor enclosure after her lower left leg became stuck in a gap between two pieces of sheet metal. Inspectors also documented issues with mold, drainage problems, and items in disrepair.

September 28, 2020 (one critical violation), Yerkes: Two voles died due to carelessness and incompetence. One died from traumatic handling by the technician, and the second was placed in a cage with a different social group and died as a result of trauma caused by other animals.

September 13, 2019 (one critical violation), Whitehead Biomedical Research Building: A vole was found dead in a cage. Laboratory staff had improperly placed the water bottle for the cage, leaving the animal with no access to water for at least five days.

September 7, 2017 (two violations, one critical repeat), Whitehead: A guinea pig escaped from his enclosure and wasn’t found until three days later, lethargic and dehydrated. He was euthanized. Also, two bottles of expired ketamine were found in a cabinet.

September 6, 2017 (one critical repeat violation), Yerkes: Experimenters euthanized the wrong primate after the animal’s identification code was mistakenly entered into the necropsy schedule. Another primate’s kidney was surgically removed for experimental purposes—but seven days later, the animal was subjected to another surgery to remove a gauze sponge that had been left behind during the initial surgery. And a vole died of starvation after workers neglected to provide the animal with food.

May 10, 2016 (one critical repeat violation), Yerkes: A male macaque was subjected to experimental surgery and became ill within three days. Over the next four days, his condition worsened, and he was euthanized. The necropsy report indicated that a piece of gauze had been left in his abdomen during surgery, “causing adhesions and intestinal obstruction.”

September 22, 2015 (one violation), Whitehead: A rabbit was found to have a fractured humerus and was euthanized. The cause of the fracture wasn’t determined.

September 22, 2015 (two violations, one critical), Yerkes: A 7-month-old female macaque was found dead in an enclosure adjacent to her own—it couldn’t be determined how she had accessed the adjacent enclosure. Also, for two protocols, experimenters failed to conduct an adequate search for alternatives, and the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee failed to intervene to ensure that a proper search was conducted.

September 22, 2015 (one violation), Yerkes: Laboratory staff neglected to remove a rubber band that had been placed on a rhesus macaque’s wrist while tattooing the animal. Within two weeks, the monkey was observed to be moving abnormally and shortly thereafter developed neurological signs and respiratory distress. The monkey was euthanized, and during the necropsy, it was noted that the rubber band had become embedded in the animal’s body.

July 29, 2014 (one violation), Yerkes: Inspectors documented that enrichment items hadn’t been properly cleaned and sanitized.

August 27, 2013 (one violation), Whitehead: A pig was used in an experiment in which a jugular catheter was inserted. The pig recovered and was placed in an enclosure. Overnight, the catheter tip became stuck in the bottom of the cage and broke off, causing the animal to bleed to death.

August 27, 2013 (one violation), Yerkes: Living and dead roaches and other insects were observed on the premises.

July 25, 2012 (one violation), Yerkes: The Plexiglas-type material for one of the sides of a testing unit was cracked and split with a pointed edge, which could cause injury to monkeys held in the enclosure.

July 19, 2012 (three violations, one direct), Yerkes: A rhesus macaque was returned to the incorrect compound, resulting in the animal’s death. Also, living and dead roaches as well as rat droppings were found on the premises.

June 29, 2011, Yerkes: A juvenile female macaque was determined to be missing from her enclosure. She was never found.

May 18, 2010 (three violations, one direct), Yerkes: Three monkeys were left in a cage that was placed in a cage washer. Fortunately, the error was discovered before the washer could cycle. Also, the following facility issues were observed: leakage from ceilings, excessive rust on air duct vent covers, and live insects on the premises.

July 11, 2006 (three violations), Yerkes: A macaque died “due to equipment that was incorrectly assembled” and “poorly labeled.”

June 14, 2005 (five violations, two direct, one repeat), Woodruff Health Sciences Center: Experimenters used inappropriate methods to restrain two rhesus macaques—they used duct tape to secure the monkeys’ forearms, hands, legs, and feet to the frame of a chair. Also, inspectors found expired drugs on the premises and equipment in disrepair.

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