UW Animal Abuse

In hidden areas of the University of Washington, thousands of animals live, suffer and die in the name of “research.” They undergo painful experimental surgeries and tests, live in boredom with the most minimal of care, many in separation, some developing psychological problems, until their usefulness is over. Over the years the research laboratories at the University of Washington have been cited for violations of even the most lax standards of governing bodies. The sheer number of animals kept by the UW, as well as the number of experiments conducted there, with the kind of invasive protocols some of them demand, means that even with the most strident assurances by the directors, a culture of unaccountability, hubris, and consistent abuse exists. There is a reason why the laboratories aren’t open to the public and their existence kept hidden from view. Given the regular pattern of abuse that gets uncovered, one can only imagine what occurs that is kept covered up.

In addition to the flagrant abuse, thousands of animals are incarcerated and die at the University of Washington every year. Nona Phillips of the IACUC, the body that nominally oversees the use of the animals at the UW, reports that the UW research labs “use” over 50,000 mice annually, and that thousands of them die of “unexpected” causes, unrelated to an experiment. Records are not kept on the numbers of animals of various species who are euthanized in the course of UW experiments. Among the “sacrificed” are mice, rats, birds, frogs, salmonids, primates, bats, other fish, salamanders, dogs, rabbits, gerbils, snakes, geckos, hamsters, and cats.

In 2009 the USDA issued a citation after the UW was found negligent in an incident in which a macaque starved to death. The USDA officials said the monkey had had not been weighed regularly as required by the university’s own protocols. The UW was cited by the USDA for violations in the areas of inadequate veterinary care, inadequate housing and enclosures. The same USDA inspection noted a problem with two adult male baboons, being used for neurological studies. Cages were designed so that when the animals were on the perches where they usually sleep, they were unable to “sit upright in a normal manner” because of 2-inch-tall implants in their heads. Here is further detail on this story.

In 2008 the USDA cited the UW for unauthorized surgeries. Thanks to the efforts of PETA and SAEN (Stop Animals Exploitation Now), hundreds of documents have been uncovered that show flagrant abuses by animal researchers in the neuroscience labs studying the relationship between the brain and eye movement. The research involves putting a metal cylinder – sometimes two – into holes drilled in the monkey’s skull. and implant wire coils in their eyes. The monkeys are then restrained in experimentation chairs, with their heads bolted in place so that they can’t move while experimenters track their eye movements. They are kept hungry or thirsty much of the time so that they’ll comply during tests to get a sip of water or a bite of food. The USDA found that many primates had extra invasive surgical procedures than was authorized, a total of 41 surgeries over 14 monkeys, some with a dozen surgeries, as the eye coils and head chambers were removed and replaced, again and again. The USDA also found that improper sterilization of the implants occurred. Here is further detail on this story.

In November 2006, the UW was put on probation by the facilities accrediting agency, the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) after they noted “serious deficiencies” in their animal-research facilities. The nine page report listed numerous violations, many stemming from the UW’s lack of maintenance dating back more than 20 years. Additionally the report identified a lack of internal oversight of the UW’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC).

In 2002, IACUC was called upon to investigate the WaNPRC from the release of records obtained from an open letter law request which showed that at a particular lab within the Primate Center, a primate AIDS study went awry. According to the records, research data was lost or went missing, and of the 17 monkeys which records indicate have been sent to the UW laboratory for this particular project, 13 have been euthanized–none because of any symptoms that can definitely be linked to Simian AIDS. Some that have been “sacrificed” (biomedical research language) showed signs of possible self-mutilation like severe bruising, a crushed finger that had to be amputated, toenails that were ripped off, and broken bones. Euthanasia records indicate that two appeared to have been anorexic prior to their deaths.

In 1995, the university risked losing U.S. Department of Agriculture accreditation for its primate-breeding facility near Spokane when five baboons died of cold-weather exposure or thirst. The school paid a fine and closed the aging facility.

Click here for further reports.

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