In December, the University of Wisconsin–Madison provided a set of records to Michael Budkie, an Ohio-based animal rights advocate, in accordance with Wisconsin public records law. Budkie requested all “reports of adverse events or unforeseen outcomes” involving animals in research reported to UW–Madison committees that oversee the care of animals in research and teaching from the beginning of 2015 to late August 2016. The university responded by providing relevant minutes from the committees’ meetings.
As required by the federal law, UW–Madison has institutional animal care and use committees (IACUCs) that include university veterinarians and researchers, as well as non-scientist members and people who are not affiliated with the university. IACUCs meet regularly to evaluate proposed research, review animal care, inspect housing and research facilities, and perform other oversight duties.
The minutes of these committee meetings demonstrate the university’s robust system for monitoring and oversight of animal research — including reports of unexpected events and instances in which human error and equipment malfunction may occur. Each of these events is carefully examined to determine what happened and how to take corrective action to minimize the risk of reoccurrence. These events are documented in IACUC minutes and, where appropriate, reported to the agencies that provide federal regulatory oversight of animal research and teaching programs.
UW–Madison is committed to conducting careful and ethical science that ultimately benefits both people and animals. Animals in research and teaching at UW–Madison are monitored daily, and our facilities receive routine and unannounced inspections by both campus officials as well as officials from federal agencies and private accreditation organizations. UW–Madison has a dedicated staff of scientists, veterinarians, animal care technicians and others who specialize in high quality, compassionate care for the animals in our research.
On occasion, however, we do make mistakes. Animals are involved in many UW–Madison research programs, covering a broad range of scientific disciplines. As in any large and complex human endeavor, there are occasional errors. The incidents covered in the records release to Budkie include:
- Equipment malfunctions that led to the injury or death of chickens, fish, frogs, rodents and a ferret.
- Errors in feeding and watering that caused the injury or death of quail, mice and rats.
- Errors in clinical treatment that caused injury of a cow and injury or death of rodents.
- Equipment malfunctions and human error in incidents that allowed monkeys to exit their enclosures and an incident in which bats left their enclosure. While all the animals remained secured in indoor facilities, some monkeys sustained injuries that required medical care. They received prompt treatment. One bat died.
When incidents like these happen, we investigate, make corrections to refine our practices, and report the particulars to relevant agencies. While the rate of error is small, we expect better and strive to minimize and eliminate potential mistakes.
Budkie’s organization, Stop Animal Exploitation Now, hopes to end all animal research no matter its benefits. The animals involved in the events described in the records were involved in research to better understand the causes of diseases such as Parkinson’s and HIV and glaucoma, to study treatment of neurological disorders, to identify drugs that may harm people with heart defects, and much more. UW–Madison staff care deeply about the animals in their charge. These people expect the best possible results for their research and any animals involved, and work continuously to improve techniques and training to achieve those goals.