PETA Urges Inspector General to Investigate Botched NIH-Funded Animal Experiments at JHU

For Immediate Release:
April 11, 2024

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382


PETA is calling for an investigation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General now that the federal agency charged with policing animal experimentation facilities has failed to adequately address a string of alarming animal welfare violations—including the deaths of a dog and a rabbit in laboratories at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) and repeated incidents of noncompliance at several other institutions funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

In a letter sent today, PETA lays out the case for an investigation by the HHS inspector general due to the failure of NIH, an agency under the HHS umbrella, to take meaningful action against the institutions that NIH’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) has failed to adequately investigate.

“The failure of NIH to take action for critical violations of federal law documented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is deeply concerning and allows institutions like Johns Hopkins to continue endangering animals in laboratories with impunity and at taxpayers’ expense,” says PETA Vice President Shalin Gala. “PETA is calling on the inspector general to investigate these serious matters along with the disturbing pattern of cruelty to animals at various institutions and to take meaningful corrective action.”

PETA filed a complaint after a dog kept in a JHU laboratory died of a heart attack after an improper injection, as documented by USDA inspectors in February 2023. NIH opened an investigation and told the school that, per agency policy, it was “possible” that the incident should have been reported to the proper authorities. But instead of reporting it, the university blamed a staff member’s mistake for the dog’s death. About a week later, NIH moved to have the case closed, downplaying the incident.

Later, a rabbit in a JHU laboratory died of complications from a botched tumor implantation surgery after receiving no follow-up veterinary care. Federal inspectors slapped the university with another violation, PETA filed an additional complaint, and NIH opened another investigation.

In March 2023, the university responded to OLAW with a report about the dog in the previous incident, not the rabbit. However, NIH moved to close the case without ever bothering to verify the accuracy of the school’s response.

JHU’s laboratories have a lengthy rap sheet of animal welfare violations, including Shreesh Mysore’s notorious brain-scrambling experiments on owls, which violated Maryland law for at least seven years. The school’s laboratories were previously cited by the USDA for failing to give animals pain relief, using expired drugs, not reporting animals’ broken bones, and failing to maintain sterile areas—all in violation of basic federal animal protection requirements.

Despite this, NIH has lavished JHU with more than $1.6 billion in federal taxpayer money since 2022—more than any other university in the country.

OLAW has also failed in its oversight of several other institutions—including Cleveland Clinic, The Jackson Laboratory, the University of California–Los Angeles, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and the Washington and Wisconsin national primate research centers—as outlined in PETA’s letter.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on”—points out that Every Animal Is Someone and offers free Empathy Kits for people who need a lesson in kindness. For more information, please visit or follow the group on X, Facebook, or Instagram.

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