Animal rights group criticizes IU for lab animal deaths

An Ohio-based animal rights group is calling on the Indiana University School of Medicine to fire staffers the group alleges violated laboratory protocols that resulted in the deaths of more than 100 lab animals.

Stop Animal Exploitation Now, or SAEN, filed a public records request for correspondence from the university to the National Institute of Health's Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare during an 18-month period. The documents detailed mistakes that included starving mice, performing procedures without pain control and faulty equipment, according to the group.

"For one facility to have 17 reports in a period of less than two years is excessive," said Michael A. Budkie, executive director and founder of SAEN, which focuses on the use of animals in research laboratories.

The group also wants an independent investigation into the deaths of the rats and mice. One incident allegedly involved faulty water bottles flooding cases in a laboratory in August 2017, resulting in the deaths of 40 mice. Another involved baby mice dying after not being fed.

The documents show that the university took corrective action in some instances, such as requiring additional training, suspending testing and issuing written warnings.

The university issued a statement noting that all of the incidents were self-reported and said the school is dedicated to taking corrective action when needed.

"The university and school strive to have no incidents involving laboratory research and continuously assess protocols and procedures to make improvements when possible," the statement said.

The university complies with all of the national health institute's rules and has received two clean reports during recent external site reviews, officials said. The reviews were conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and AAALAC International, a private not-for-profit that offers accreditation for facilities engaged in research.

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