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Violations of the Federal Animal Welfare Act in the Laboratories of the University of California–Davis

Veterinary inspectors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have documented serious and chronic violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) in the laboratories of the University of California–Davis and the associated California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC). The AWA stipulates minimum animal welfare standards, but experimenters at UC-Davis and the CNPRC have repeatedly failed to comply with these minimal protections for animals.

January 4, 2024 (one critical violation): A young primate was found dead and entangled in a bungee cord that had been used to hold an enclosure together. The necropsy report indicated that the death was the combined result of the entanglement and the heart disease known to cause sudden death in the primate colony.

December 6, 2023 (one violation): A newborn lamb caught their head and neck in a makeshift pen. The lamb was found unresponsive and died.

October 10, 2023 (two critical violations): An elderly primate was left alone in a cage in a hot transport van. She was found unresponsive, never regained consciousness, and was euthanized. Her condition was attributed to overheating. Also, a primate’s significant weight loss was neither documented by staff nor reported to a veterinarian. When he was presented to a veterinarian after three months, he appeared to have liver disease and was euthanized.

May 9, 2023 (one violation): Four animals were used in an expired teaching protocol.

March 16, 2022 (one critical violation): A mouse went missing from a cage and wasn’t found, even after live traps were set.

April 17, 2018 (one critical repeat violation): A guinea pig fell out of a cage from a height of 5 feet and died after a staff member mistakenly removed a section of the cage.

February 7, 2018 (one critical repeat violation): A rabbit under anesthesia died after a technician gave them an injection of air instead of a contrast medium because the stopcock valve used for the procedure was turned in the wrong direction. Also, a staff member attempted to socialize two dogs even though veterinary staff had recommended against it because one of them had a history of aggression toward other dogs. As a result, the dogs fought—they both became injured, and one of them required stitches.

November 15, 2016 (three violations): Two young cows were covered in dozens of flies, causing them to twitch and stomp their feet. An outdoor cow enclosure contained opaque green water and debris. Additionally, a container of fruit-flavored cereal used as primate treats sat open, and bags of dried fruit for primates sat open on the floor.

September 13, 2016 (one critical repeat violation): Two incompatible primates sustained injuries after staff failed to secure and lock a divider door between them, one of them so seriously that they had to be euthanized.

July 19, 2016 (three violations): A primate escaped from a transport cage and was then tranquilized using a dart gun, captured, and taken to the facility’s veterinary clinic. Later in the day, she was observed to be in declining health due to a damaged kidney with subsequent internal bleeding and was euthanized. Also, a rabbit died during surgery when a pop-up valve was left in a closed position; another rabbit was supposed to be euthanized upon showing an elevated respiratory rate, but euthanasia was delayed; and rabbits weren’t tranquilized prior to anesthesia, which was a significant and unapproved protocol change.

May 24, 2016 (one critical repeat violation): A 4-year-old primate escaped from a cage after staff failed to secure its door. The animal returned on their own with fractures to both legs.

February 10, 2016 (three violations): A cow enclosure had no feeders and hay on the ground that was contaminated with feces, a llama enclosure’s fencing was in disrepair with wires protruding into it, and open dumpsters next to a llama enclosure contained garbage and water harboring mosquitoes.

April 15, 2015 (one repeat violation): A 6-year-old primate was injured after being left unattended on a restraint board while he was given fluids intravenously. After two to four hours, he chewed through the tape restraining his upper body—his legs, one of which had become broken, remained taped to the board.

May 27, 2014 (four violations, one repeat): An adult sheep and her baby lamb were transported together on a two-hour trip in a crate that was too small for them. She fell on her baby, who died. Also, in an experiment that required sheep to be pregnant, their pregnancy status was determined through abdominal surgery that entailed an incision and manual palpitation of the uterus to confirm pregnancy rather than a less invasive method such as ultrasound, which a facility representative said was too expensive. Additionally, an animal suffering from liquid stools wasn’t provided with veterinary treatment for about six months. They subsequently had a bloody stool, and treatment was delayed again. Similarly, an animal suffered from chronic vomiting and wasn’t provided with appropriate treatment for over six months. Furthermore, a protocol for implanting subcutaneous minipumps in primates didn’t include a complete description of the procedure, and all the primates had adverse reactions to the pumps.

February 4, 2014 (one violation): Two animals had excessively long nails.

October 29, 2013 (one violation): A 19-month-old primate died from trauma to their head and neck after they became trapped in a squeeze mechanism in a cage.

June 5, 2013 (one repeat violation): The oxygen saturation of several animals was either not monitored, monitored sporadically, or not maintained at levels specified by protocol.

February 13, 2013 (two violations): Two infant primates were supposed to be paired with others of a similar age, but instead—and without explanation—they were housed individually for the first four months of their lives. Additionally, an approved protocol didn’t specify the maximum number of procedures that could be performed on any one primate, nor did it describe how euthanized animals were used for training.

May 4, 2011 (one violation): Nineteen young primates were found dead over a span of nine months. Fourteen of them were 2 months old or younger, and necropsy reports stated that they had likely died due to a lack of nutrition and/or parental care. The other five were between the ages of 5 months and 2 years, and they died due to complications from untreated colitis or enterocolitis.

November 5, 2009 (two violations): A primate was used in four experiments, despite having an extensive history of medical issues that included gastrointestinal problems, numerous injuries to multiple parts of his body, and self-injurious behavior. Many of these issues worsened—to the extent that he had to be sedated 15 times, primarily to treat trauma—between the third and fourth experiments, but he was still used in the fourth experiment. Also, staff didn’t record instances of blood in his frequent vomit or document how he sustained fractures in two of his toes, one of which required amputation.

June 4, 2008 (one violation): Crystals formed in cats, causing major damage to their kidneys, when they were fed a diet with two chemicals added to it. Only one chemical had originally been approved in the protocol, but the second one was approved after the experimenter began feeding it to the animals. In another experiment that would have involved trapping stray and feral cats, the experiment was approved without ensuring that AWA regulations would be followed.

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