Violations of the Federal Animal Welfare Act in the Laboratories of the University of Wisconsin–Madison

Veterinary inspectors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have documented serious and chronic violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) in the laboratories of the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the associated Wisconsin National Primate Research Center (WNPRC). The AWA stipulates minimum animal welfare standards, but experimenters at UW-Madison and the WNPRC have repeatedly failed to comply with these established protections for animals. Click the links for the full USDA reports.

  • November 28, 2023 (one critical violation): A pig’s heart rate plummeted after experimenters administered an incorrect drug dosage. The experimenters were unable to stabilize the pig’s heart rate, and the animal was killed.
  • November 8, 2022 (two critical violations, one repeat): A monkey escaped from an incorrectly used transport box and seriously injured another monkey’s tongue. Additionally, two monkeys escaped from their cage and injured another monkey’s tongue, which required sutures.
  • April 5, 2022 (two violations, one critical, one repeat): A monkey died after their head became trapped between two chains in a cage, and another monkey had two fingers amputated after their hand became stuck between a perch in the cage and the wall. Additionally, two monkeys fought, and one lost the tip of his tongue when an incorrect divider was placed between them. Monkeys received incorrect doses of medicine in four incidents.
  • August 17, 2021 (one critical repeat violation): Seven handling incidents caused serious injuries to monkeys, resulting in partial losses of tongues, partial digit amputations, wounds that required sutures, and a tail injury. Additionally, a marmoset sustained an injury when the door to their enclosure was closed on their foot, which required multiple surgeries and digit amputations.
  • April 15, 2020 (citation and notification of penalty): The USDA fined UW-Madison $74,000 for 28 AWA violations, including 23 incidents in which monkeys and other animals sustained lacerations, bruising, and trauma to their faces and bodies. In some of these incidents, amputations of the monkeys’ fingers, toes, and portions of their tongues and feet were necessary. After being caged with a stressed animal, one monkey sustained fatal wounds so deep that part of his vertebrae was exposed. The university even failed to provide monkeys with drinking water for four days, causing dehydration so severe that one of them had to be euthanized. A mouse starved to death and another had to be euthanized after the university failed to provide them with food for three consecutive days.
  • July 9, 2019 (one critical repeat violation): In two incidents, monkeys fought after escaping from their cages, resulting in injuries that required sutures, partial digit amputations, and partial tongue removal. Additionally, an incorrectly handled marmoset sustained a femur fracture that required amputation. A mouse died after their head became caught under the lid of their cage.
  • June 12, 2018 (one critical repeat violation): In four incidents, monkeys escaped from their cages and then either sustained injuries themselves or caused them to other monkeys. Treatment for these injuries ranged from sutures to partial digit amputations. In two separate incidents, a marmoset sustained injuries to their foot when a door was closed on it, resulting in partial digit amputations.
  • March 28, 2017 (one critical repeat violation): Two squirrels escaped from their cage when it wasn’t properly latched. One squirrel wasn’t found.
  • November 1, 2016 (five violations, three critical, two repeat): Two monkeys fought after being caged together, resulting in one sustaining severe wounds, including partially exposed vertebrae. No behavioral evaluation of the monkeys was conducted, and they continued to be caged together. Three days later, the wounded monkey was found dead from new traumatic thoracic injuries. Monkeys escaped from their cages in four other incidents. Nine monkeys sustained injuries, ranging from partial loss of their tongues to ones requiring sutures and digit amputations. Additionally, mice in three cages hadn’t been provided with food. One mouse was already dead; upon necropsy, this animal’s stomach was found to contain hair, paper, and bedding.
  • April 26, 2016 (two violations): A ferret died after her head became caught in her cage unit, and a tube of expired antibiotic cream was found in a bat housing space.
  • January 5, 2016 (two violations, one repeat): In 12 incidents, monkeys escaped from their cages and sustained injuries that included partial digit amputations and partial tongue loss that required sutures. Additionally, a water supply line for three monkeys became disconnected, causing the animals severe dehydration. One of the monkeys didn’t respond to IV fluid therapy and was euthanized.
  • January 21, 2015 (one violation): In two incidents, monkeys escaped from their cages due to technician error and sustained injuries requiring partial digit amputations and sutures. In three incidents, monkeys were placed in the wrong cage due to technician error and sustained injuries requiring sutures.
  • July 15, 2014 (four violations, one repeat): A 2-year-old monkey was found dead after her head got caught in a chain in her cage, and a 7-month-old monkey died after their head got caught between a support bar and the cage. Another monkey was burned by a heat lamp that malfunctioned during a procedure. Monkeys escaped from their enclosures in 36 incidents, five of which led to significant injuries to the animals. Additionally, a 5-year-old marmoset died during a procedure in which the veterinary technician failed to operate an anesthesia machine properly.
  • February 3, 2014 (citation and notification of penalty): UW-Madison was fined $35,286 for seven AWA violations, including one incident in which a cat named Broc was negligently and severely burned by university staff during surgery. The animal’s burn was discovered during a USDA investigation of a complaint filed by PETA.
  • December 13, 2012 (one violation): A cat was burned during a procedure when a warming device made direct contact with her skin.
  • July 14, 2010 (six violations, five repeat, one direct): Cockroaches were seen on the walls of a room housing monkeys, and a light fixture was dark due to the number of cockroaches covering it. Additionally, a protocol didn’t indicate whether the experimenter had considered alternatives to a painful procedure. The facility couldn’t produce records to verify the proper training of a veterinary technician, and a bottle of a solution used to euthanize pigs didn’t have a label that listed the concentration or expiration date.
  • December 17, 2009 (20 violations, one direct): The administration of fluids in post-operative treatment wasn’t in accordance with established veterinary practices under a protocol in which dogs were subjected to major surgeries that were anticipated to potentially cause terminal renal failure. Three dogs subjected to the surgery exhibited a combination of symptoms, including edema, vomiting, depression, anuria (not producing urine), and anorexia. After the death of a gerbil who had been wobbly and had difficulty breathing, a necropsy indicated that their body condition was rated a one out of five. Unsanitary conditions and facility disrepair were documented in multiple buildings housing animals.
  • September 9, 2009 (two violations): A rhesus macaque experienced chronic health issues, including lameness and signs of neurological disorders, for over three years preceding their death. Recommendations for treating the animal’s health issues weren’t followed.
  • April 9, 2009 (one violation): A monkey escaped from their enclosure and fought with two other caged monkeys, resulting in hand injuries to two of the three.
  • December 5, 2007 (one violation): A long-tailed macaque had chronic diarrhea and a lack of appetite from the time they arrived at the facility. The possible issues of a partial intestinal obstruction or abdominal mass weren’t investigated in a timely manner, and the monkey died four months after arrival.
  • June 20, 2007 (three violations): Animals weren’t provided with pain relief after being infected with a pathogen that resulted in suffering and death. The experimenters didn’t provide a justification for withholding analgesics. Experimenters also failed to provide scientific justifications for the number of animals used. Several experimental protocols didn’t provide sufficient detail to ensure that the animals’ pain and distress would be minimized.
  • June 9, 2006 (one violation): Twenty voles were found dead, most likely due to a lack of circulating air once an outtake air regulator broke.
  • July 19, 2005 (three violations, one repeat): A dog—skeletal and with sunken eyes—was found dead in a kennel. A necropsy report revealed the cause of death as end-stage renal disease. The attending veterinarian hadn’t been contacted about the dog’s condition, even though records noted that the dog had been vomiting, losing weight, panting, lethargic, and unresponsive to sound or movement over a period of months. There were other instances of the attending veterinarian not being contacted about animals showing signs of distress. Janitorial and engineering staff were used in the care of animals instead.
  • May 26, 2005 (six violations, two repeat, one direct): A monkey’s arm was stuck in the front of a cage, and a staffer attempted to release the arm by manipulating it with lubricant—even as it became swollen and the monkey cried out. The USDA inspector told the staffer to stop and call for the attending veterinarian. Additionally, the walls of a dog room were smeared with fecal matter, a room confining monkeys had a broken flush system that resulted in increased fecal matter in the pans under the animals’ cages, and multiple air filters needed cleaning.


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