In the course of enforcing the federal 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. In June 2018, USDA inspected the animals and records maintained by University of Wisconsin–Madison’s College of Letters & Science and the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center and the institutional animal care and use committee that oversees animal research at the center. These facilities conduct a broad range of research and training programs that involve animals covered by the AWA. The programs include laboratories and animal housing, as well as many scientists, animal care, veterinary and research staff.
After reviewing the facilities and their records, USDA issued a citation:
1.9 C.F.R. § 2.38(F)(1)
Since USDA last inspected monkey facilities in 2016, there were four incidents in which rhesus macaques exited their primary enclosures and sustained injuries requiring veterinary medical attention while interacting with other macaques that remained in their enclosures. All told, five monkeys required veterinary care that included stitches or partial amputation of a digit. USDA noted that the treatment was prompt. Staff also reported the injuries promptly to oversight committees and took steps to minimize the risk of repeat incidents.
As part of research and routine care for monkeys, UW–Madison animal care staff transfer monkeys from one enclosure to another for many reasons, such as cleaning and maintenance of animal surroundings and enrichment equipment, exams and care from veterinarians, and participation in research projects. Tens of thousands of transfers occur each year, primarily for regular cleaning of the animals’ home enclosures. On rare occasions during transfers, individual animals slip away from animal caretakers. There are also are rare occasions when equipment failures result in monkeys leaving their home enclosure. In every case, the animals remain within their secure housing room within a contained area and are quickly recovered.
While the rate at which monkeys slip away from enclosures or handlers is minuscule and continues to decline, the USDA and the university expect better. The university and its staff care about injuries to animals and strive to minimize potential for errors, working continuously to improve transfer and training techniques.
The USDA also noted that one marmoset monkey’s hind foot was twice caught in enclosure doors as they were shut — a problem animal care staff had not experienced before with the doors or monkeys. Both times, the injured foot required partial digit amputation. USDA inspectors examined the marmoset, and found it recovered and moving without problem. They also checked adjustments UW–Madison staff made to equipment to prevent future foot-catches.