CSU violates animal rights

Aug 222011
Authors: Andrew Carrera

CSU’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 program’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 – a branch of the Department of Agriculture – found nine animal health and safety violations after touring university facilities, citing transgressions such as failing to keep sheep feed uncontaminated by fox feces.

“(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,” read one violation in the government report.

Dr. Partin said steps have been taken to remedy mistakes found by inspectors.

“The pallets were moved from a shed to a more secure barn, making it harder for a wild animal to access the food,” she said in an email to the Collegian. “A tough, plastic secondary ‘bag’ 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.”

APHIS has also cited Harvard College, the University of California – 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.

“Comparably speaking, this is a large fine,” he said. “A lot of other fines have been less than $10,000… but (a $23,000 fine) isn’t unheard of.”

Despite the amount, Linda Schutjer, Senior Associate Legal Counsel to the university system, maintained that CSU’s program “sets the ethical standard for other universities nationwide,” and said the fine reflects a growing trend by APHIS known as the “Age of Enforcement,” in which the regulatory agency increases fines for infractions that, in years past, would have gone unnoticed.

“Fining is a way to generate revenue,” she said.

Budkie also said penalties had been increasing over the past few years, adding, “The fines are getting bigger, but not the violations.”

Even still, he said, the flags raised by APHIS reveal an institution incapable of the most basic tasks.

“If you can’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 they’re following research protocols? These kinds of infractions do not sound like they’re coming out of a laboratory capable of doing science,” 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.

“When we have a blemish, we have a good system for fixing the blemish. We can’t be perfect. But besides being perfect, I think we have a really good program,” Partin said.

Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at news@collegian.com.

By the numbers

CSU animal care costs for 2011

Fine levied against CSU for animal welfare violations

Amount of violations issued to CSU

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