UC Davis Receives Penalty for Animal Welfare Citation

April 25, 2018
Amanda Carrozza

Amanda Carrozza is a freelance writer and editor in New Jersey.

Following the death of a rabbit being used in the UC Davis animal research program, the university has agreed to pay a penalty of $5000 set by the USDA.

The University of California, Davis (UC Davis) has agreed to pay a penalty of $5000 to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) stemming from a July 2016 animal welfare citation.

The citation—which falls under the Animal Welfare Act—described a procedure where a rabbit died under anesthesia when a valve was inadvertently left closed. As a result, UC Davis has retrained its staff and replaced the valves with ones that are open by default.

“While incidents like these are rare considering the scale of our research programs involving animals, each one is taken very seriously and investigated to prevent future occurrences,” Cameron Carter, MD, interim vice chancellor for research at UC Davis, said.

In 2016, the USDA Investigative and Enforcement Service notified UC Davis that it would conduct an investigation in response to the rabbit’s death. After the investigation, the USDA notified UC Davis in March 2018 that it had decided a penalty of $5000 for the citation would suffice, and the university accepted.

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According to UC Davis, all research studies conducted at the university involving animals require review and approval by the UC Davis Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee to ensure ethical and humane treatment. The university is also accredited by the International Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC), an independent nonprofit organization. Application for accreditation is voluntary and requires re-evaluation every 3 years.

In addition, UC Davis conducted an internal review in 2017 of animal care on campus. The report—compiled by Joy Mench, PhD, professor emeritus for the UC Davis Department of Animal Science—details animal deaths and injuries that have occurred in recent years as part of the campus’ animal research program.

For example, in 2016, a monkey escaped from its transport box and the dart used to sedate the monkey lacerated one of its kidneys. As a result, the monkey had to be euthanized. In another instance, a monkey that was being restrained for the purpose of administering fluid therapy partially escaped restraint and fractured its leg. Many of the reported accidents were traced back to human or mechanical error.

The internal review also includes how procedures and processes were altered after each incident to further ensure the safety of the animals.

“The positive results of the National Institute of Health’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare review, as well as the last 3 AAALAC site visits, also indicate that the campus has a robust animal care program,” Dr. Mench wrote in the internal review.

Even with these positive results, she still provided 3 recommendations for the animal research program going forward, including the renovation of animal facilities, review of USDA procedures, and recruitment of a permanent attending veterinarian for the UC Davis program.

“Our expectation is to provide the best possible care to any animal in our charge, treating their safety and welfare as paramount, and our committed staff goes to great lengths to ensure this,” Dr. Carter said. “Unfortunately, some mistakes happen, but we are quick to learn from them and take appropriate actions to further improve care.”