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Research animal deaths at NDSU prompt complaints

Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! has issued North Dakota State University three critical and five non-critical citations against NDSU in less than a year. Most recently, 11 lambs were reportedly crushed to death and three hogs died from dehydration. Forum file photo

FARGO -- Eleven lambs died when they were packed into a holding pen this spring at North Dakota State University in a manner that they were “essentially crushed to death,” according to animal rights advocates.

The lamb deaths and the deaths of three hogs that died from dehydration, also this spring, were the latest in a series of animal deaths at NDSU, which last year included the deaths of 22 bats that were kept for research.

The spate of animal deaths resulted in three critical citations and five non-critical citations against NDSU in less than a year, according to Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!, the group that filed the complaints, which issued a statement about the latest deaths Monday, July 16.

“Since North Dakota State University has clearly demonstrated negligence which led to dozens of animal deaths, I must insist that you take the most severe action allowable under the Animal Welfare Act and immediately begin the process of issuing the maximum fine allowable against North Dakota State University at the completion of your investigation -- $10,000 per infraction/ per animal,” Michael Budkie, executive director and co-founder of Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!” wrote in a July 13 letter to a U.S. Department of Agriculture official.

“If any lab ever deserved a six-figure fine it is North Dakota State University,” Budkie said in a statement.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, also criticized NDSU’s record of research animal death and called for taxpayer refunds, if applicable.

“Given NDSU’s troubling pattern of failing to comply with federal animal welfare laws, PETA is calling on the USDA to fine the school and is asking the National Institutes of Health to investigate and determine whether any of the animal deaths at NDSU occurred in connection with taxpayer-supported projects,” Kathy Guillermo, PETA’s senior vice president of laboratory investigations, said in a statement.

The university should repay all tax money wasted on projects in which NDSU staff allowed animals to suffer and die of dehydration and trauma.”

The eleven lambs, all eight to 13 weeks in age, were being weaned and were kept in a holding pen with 200 other animals. The lambs were being staged for procedures, including vaccinations. Barn employees returned 90 minutes later and discovered that the sheep had piled on one side of the pen, resulting in the deaths.

The lamb deaths occurred in March, but were not reported until six weeks later, an inspector for the USDA noted in a report.

“Additionally,” the inspector wrote, “none of the eleven lambs that died were presented for necropsy to a veterinary diagnostic laboratory.”

In May, a water line supplying drinking water to 14 hogs was found not to be working by swine unit employees at NDSU. The 14 hogs were moved to another pen with water on the same day. One of the hogs was found dead later that day. A second hog died the next day and a third, which became debilitated, had to be euthanized.

NDSU officials, including Neil Dyer, NDSU attending veterinarian and the Institutional Animal Care and Use compliance administrator, reported the two adverse events and devised a corrective action plan, a spokeswoman for NDSU said in a statement.

“This plan includes identification and description of the problem, root cause analysis, development of a remediation plan and future monitoring,” Sadie Rudolph, NDSU media relations coordinator, said in the statement, adding that employees will receive instruction on Animal Welfare Act compliance.

Last year, NDSU was cited for the deaths of 22 bats, a “captive colony” kept for research, that died between January and May.

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