As required by their enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), veterinary medical officers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regularly conduct routine inspections of facilities that house animals for research. For three days in April 2016, the USDA conducted a routine review of animals and their facilities at the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, and School of Medicine and Public Health — each host to a broad range of research and training projects that involve animals covered by the AWA. The programs include many laboratories and animal housing facilities, as well as many scientists, animal care, veterinary and research staff.
After reviewing all of each college or school’s facilities and records, the USDA issued two citations — including one following the unfortunate death of a ferret.
For more information on the inspection, contact Allyson J. Bennett, faculty director of the UW–Madison Animal Program.
Two USDA citations
1.9 C.F.R. § 2.33 (b)(2)
Antibiotics used in animal care at the university must be unexpired, and all medications used for animal care are to be checked by personnel in order to ensure that expired medications are disposed of and replaced. However, USDA inspectors found a tube of antibiotic cream that expired in March 2015 in a UW–Madison lab that houses brown bats. Although the cream was not being used in the lab’s current study, it had been used on bats some time after its expiration date, and had not been disposed of. Thankfully, the bats treated with the expired antibiotic cream were not harmed.
But, as a result, USDA inspectors issued a citation to the university for not properly providing veterinary care.
1.9 C.F.R. § 3.125 (a)
UW–Madison houses animals in enclosures that are well-maintained and checked daily by animal care and research staff to ensure they clean and safe. On rare occasions, however, a cage is involved in an animal incident. In July 2015, a female ferret was found to have died when she was able to get her head caught in her enclosure. Staff promptly notified the institutional animal care and use committee, and UW-Madison promptly notified the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare. University staff took measures to prevent further occurrences, and NIH officials acknowledged that the university’s investigations and corrective measures were appropriate.
While the incidents like this are rare, USDA and the university expect better. The university and its staff care deeply about injuries to animals, and strive to protect animal safety by minimizing potential for errors and working continuously to improve animal care.
According to the USDA inspectors, corrective actions to prevent further occurrences were taken, but a citation was issued for not preventing — through maintaining primary enclosures in good repair — the ferret’s unfortunate death.