Newly Released Records Show NIH Fails to Comply with Animal Care Standards

Agency Violates Guidelines It Requires From Funding Recipients; PETA Demands Audit

For Immediate Release:
February 7, 2020

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

Bethesda, Md.

Laboratories that experiment on animals and receive taxpayer funds from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—the world’s premiere research organization with a $42 billion budget—must comply with animal welfare standards in order to keep funding flowing.

But records recently obtained by PETA through a Freedom of Information Act request show that NIH’s own laboratories are violating the very animal welfare guidelines the agency requires of the laboratories it funds.

Armed with these damning federal documents revealing dozens of chronic violations of animal welfare provisions at NIH laboratories, PETA is demanding an audit of the agency’s experiments on animals and an end to the rampant neglect and incompetence that occurs at the taxpayer-funded laboratories, where thousands of monkeys, hundreds of dogs and rabbits, and hundreds of thousands of mice and rats are caged.

In addition to violating its own animal welfare guidelines, these NIH laboratories are exempt from inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the agency tasked with ensuring compliance with the Animal Welfare Act. This is the only federal law with legally enforceable animal welfare standards that governs the treatment of animals in laboratories.

In a letter to NIH Deputy Director for Intramural Research Michael M. Gottesman, M.D., PETA also calls for the phase-out of experiments on animals in favor of human-relevant research methods. Overwhelming evidence indicates that animal studies often fail to lead to effective treatments and cures for human diseases.

Case files dated between January 5, 2018, and October 15, 2019, document 31 incidents at NIH’s facilities involving serious violations of federal animal welfare guidelines, including the following:

  • NIH experimenters failed to give pain relief to mice who sustained bone fractures and were subjected to painful surgeries.
  • Mice starved or died from dehydration because employees forgot to put food or water in the cages and no one noticed.
  • Thirteen mice baked to death when an HVAC failure caused temperatures to soar to 100 degrees Fahrenheit overnight.
  • An owl monkey was denied veterinary care and died in a cage after losing 20% of her bodyweight.
  • Lights were left on around the clock—which is known to cause animals severe stress—for almost five months in the rooms where monkeys were held.
  • Dogs used in a septic shock study developed infections, and the study was suspended after experimenters deviated from the approved protocol.

“The nation’s premiere conductor and funder of scientific research couldn’t even bother to feed animals in their care,” says PETA Vice President Dr. Alka Chandna. “PETA is calling for an immediate, thorough review of these facilities’ sloppy practices and a shift to more sophisticated, animal-free research methods.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on”—has also urged NIH to adopt its “Research Modernization Deal,” which offers a strategy for identifying and eliminating funding for methods that don’t work and refocusing resources on more promising non-animal, human-relevant testing.

PETA’s letter to Gottesman is available upon request. The group opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview that fosters violence toward other animals.

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