Campus Faculty & Staff News

Primate deaths, other violations found in USDA inspection of UH lab

A recent report from the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service found that a UH health and biomedical science lab had the second most violations of any U.S. research laboratory in 2022. 

The inspection lists a total of five violations, three of which are considered critical. According to the report, these violations led to the deaths of at least four monkeys being used for research. 

In response, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now Michael Budkie filed a complaint against the University with the USDA. 

“Due to University of Houston negligence, five non-human primates died unnecessarily, and others suffered in unnecessarily long procedures,” Budkie said. “It is quite clear that monkeys at the University of Houston were not handled properly or cared for properly.”

Of the three critical violations, the first concerned a failure to maintain proper sanitation standards. The report states that lab personnel reused syringes leading to several monkeys becoming infected, two of which had to be euthanized. 

“Any first-year vet tech student understands sterilization,” Budkie said. “The utter ineptitude of University of Houston staff resulted in three non-human primates developing highly painful brain abscesses, two of which led to death.”

The second infraction states that the University failed to monitor personnel qualifications correctly and allowed an underqualified researcher to perform surgery on multiple monkeys over three years. 

“This violation recounts over three years of improperly performed surgeries,” Budkie said. “This resulted not only in additional pain and suffering for the monkeys but also in at least one death.”

The final violation details a reported failure on behalf of the principal investigator to correctly follow the procedure laid out by a veterinarian when performing cranial surgery. In addition, the inspection claims that a clerical error resulted in one monkey receiving the wrong type of medication. 

“University of Houston staff, when trying to revive an animal from a drug reaction, didn’t give the antidote, they injected more of the drug which was causing the problem,” Budkie said. “If these extremely basic blunders are made in this lab, why should we believe that they are capable of doing anything that even roughly resembles science?”

In response, the University released a statement claiming that it has taken corrective action to address the complaints listed and affirmed its stance in support of animal welfare. 

“We know that the significant medical knowledge gained from animal research improves and saves the lives of countless humans and animals, but the use of animals in research for this purpose comes with great responsibility,” a UH statement said. “We hold ourselves accountable, and as a university community who has compassion for animals, the loss of these animals is unacceptable to us.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly listed the number of monkeys as five. The USDA inspection lists only four. 

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