In December 2015, the University of Wisconsin–Madison contacted two federal agencies that regulate research with animals — the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service — to inform them of the unfortunate death of a rhesus macaque monkey housed at UW–Madison.
NIH officials acknowledged that the university’s investigations and corrective measures were appropriate. As required by their enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, veterinary medical officers (VMOs) from USDA conducted an inspection of animal care at UW–Madison. For three days in January 2016, USDA reviewed UW–Madison nonhuman primate research facilities and laboratory records. USDA issued two citations. 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. § 3.83
Each monkey in the care of the university must have access to drinking water, and those water systems are to be checked daily by animal caretakers to ensure that access. However, at some point during four days in December 2015, a line supplying water to three rhesus monkeys became disconnected. It is unclear how long the animals were without water during those four days, and they did not show outward signs of dehydration during the daily monitoring performed by caretakers and other staff. But when the fault in the supply line was discovered, and the monkeys examined, the sodium levels in their blood were higher than normal. That is a symptom of dehydration, and all three began IV fluid treatment. Sadly, one of the monkeys did not improve with the therapy, and was humanely euthanized by veterinarians.
USDA inspectors issued a citation to the university for not properly providing water.
1.9 C.F.R. § 2.38(f)(1)
As part of research and routine care for monkeys, the University of Wisconsin–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 in order to clean the animals’ home enclosures on a regular basis. On rare occasions, individual animals slip away from animal caretakers during transfers, and have to be recovered from within the room in which the transfer was taking place. Similarly, there are rare occasions when equipment failures result in monkeys leaving their home enclosure. In every case, the animals remain within their housing room and within a contained area. USDA inspectors reviewing records of animal care from January to December of 2015, noted that monkeys slipped out of their enclosures due to staff or equipment errors. During 12 such incidents, the monkeys’ interactions with other monkeys still in their enclosures resulted in injuries to animals that required medical treatment. All received prompt clinical care and have fully recovered from their injuries.
According to the USDA inspectors, the injured monkeys received proper care promptly and fully recovered, but a citation was issued for not ensuring — through handling or use of enclosure equipment — that the incidents were avoided.
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 deeply about injuries to animals and strive to minimize potential for errors, working continuously to improve transfer techniques and training to avoid them.