CSUâ€™s nationally-renowned animal care program paid more than $23,000 in fines for failing to follow government protocol in its handling of animals in the past few years.
Dr. Kathryn Partin, Director of the Research Integrity & Compliance Review Office on campus, acknowledged that the $23,000 taken from the animal care programâ€™s budget could have easily funded a full-time position in the laboratory. The payment came after a September 29, 2010 routine inspection by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service â€“ a branch of the Department of Agriculture â€“ found nine animal health and safety violations after touring university facilities, citing transgressions such as failing to keep sheep feed uncontaminated by fox feces.
â€œ(CSU) failed to provide food that was wholesome, palatable and free from contamination to maintain animal health. A pallet of feed for sheep contained ripped bags contaminated by fox feces,â€ read one violation in the government report.
Dr. Partin said steps have been taken to remedy mistakes found by inspectors.
â€œThe pallets were moved from a shed to a more secure barn, making it harder for a wild animal to access the food,â€ she said in an email to the Collegian. â€œA tough, plastic secondary â€˜bagâ€™ was purchased that now encases the bags of food making it harder for a wild animal to chew through to the food; and staff were retrained to secure the food using these new procedures.â€
APHIS has also cited Harvard College, the University of California â€“ Los Angeles, Princeton University and other leading animal research institutions for similar transgressions within the past year. But Michael Budkie, executive director of an Ohio-based animal rights advocacy group called Stop Animal Exploitation Now, said a $23,000 fine is larger than most issued.
â€œComparably speaking, this is a large fine,â€ he said. â€œA lot of other fines have been less than $10,000… but (a $23,000 fine) isnâ€™t unheard of.â€
Despite the amount, Linda Schutjer, Senior Associate Legal Counsel to the university system, maintained that CSUâ€™s program â€œsets the ethical standard for other universities nationwide,â€ and said the fine reflects a growing trend by APHIS known as the â€œAge of Enforcement,â€ in which the regulatory agency increases fines for infractions that, in years past, would have gone unnoticed.
â€œFining is a way to generate revenue,â€ she said.
Budkie also said penalties had been increasing over the past few years, adding, â€œThe fines are getting bigger, but not the violations.â€
Even still, he said, the flags raised by APHIS reveal an institution incapable of the most basic tasks.
â€œIf you canâ€™t do basic things like storing the food properly, then (is CSU) capable of doing anything that roughly resembles science? Why would we want to believe that theyâ€™re following research protocols? These kinds of infractions do not sound like theyâ€™re coming out of a laboratory capable of doing science,â€ Budkie said.
Dr. Partin responded by emphasizing that CSU is not alone in being issued its citations, and instead should be recognized for its commitment to improve.
â€œWhen we have a blemish, we have a good system for fixing the blemish. We canâ€™t be perfect. But besides being perfect, I think we have a really good program,â€ Partin said.
Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By the numbers
CSU animal care costs for 2011
Fine levied against CSU for animal welfare violations
Amount of violations issued to CSU