New Study Documents Hundreds of Animal-Welfare Violations at Top Taxpayer-Funded Laboratories

PETA Found Mice and Rats Starved, Drowned, Denied Pain Relief, and More at Top Universities

For Immediate Release:
August 21, 2017

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382


Today at the Tenth World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences conference in Seattle, PETA will present the findings of a critical study that reveals how the exclusion of mice and rats from the federal Animal Welfare Act leaves them vulnerable to abuse.

PETA scientists analyzed hundreds of federal reports obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, documenting animal-welfare violations at the top 20 university recipients of National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants. These institutions received more than $6.1 billion from the NIH in 2016 and have agreements with the Public Health Service to comply with federal animal-welfare guidelines in their treatment of mice and rats—species that make up 95 percent of animals used in U.S. laboratories but have no protection under federal law.

PETA found that for the 27-month period from January 1, 2015, to April 1, 2017, these universities racked up a total of 430 violations specifically related to the treatment of mice and rats. Among other abuse, these included 97 incidents in which the animals were subjected to unapproved experimental procedures, 74 incidents in which they received inadequate pain relief, and 56 incidents in which they suffered from dehydration, starvation, or inadequate ventilation. At some institutions, violations were repeated, but federal oversight authorities took no corrective action. See the study poster here.

Top offenders include the University of Minnesota with 60 violations, followed by the University of Pittsburgh (53 violations), the University of Michigan (52 violations), Yale University (39 violations), and the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill (34 violations).

“Billions in tax dollars are going to universities that are in flagrant violation of their animal-care agreements with the government,” says PETA’s Dr. Frances Cheng, one of the study’s authors. “Yet the NIH imposes no penalty for drowning, starving, suffocating, or denying pain relief and veterinary care to mice and rats.”

Among the violations: At the University of Minnesota, 75 rats weren’t given post-operative pain relief. At the University of Pittsburgh, mice were subjected to painful toe amputations without anesthetics. A rat who hadn’t been euthanized properly at the University of Michigan was found dead at the bottom of a cooler after having chewed through a bag. Two mice drowned in a flooded cage after it was placed backwards in a rack at Yale University. At UNC–Chapel Hill, 11 mice starved when workers didn’t feed them.

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