Rabbits exposed to anthrax “might die” at Southern Research Institute

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Newly-released USDA documents reveal that Southern Research, located in Birmingham, Alabama, admitted that rabbits being used in a federally-funded anthrax experiment might die because the facility is inadequately staffed. Specifically, Southern Research wrote: 

“. . . it is possible that challenged rabbits might die during observation periods (when technicians are concentrating on other animals), between observation periods, or overnight”. 

While it’s true that the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) allows experimenters to expose animals with anthrax, and even allows animals to suffer without any pain relief, it does at least require a basic level of care that doesn’t allow animals suffer to death because there’s not sufficient staff on hand to watch them all.

To be specific, the Animal Welfare Act states clearly in 2.33(b)(1):

 “Each research facility shall have an attending veterinarian who shall provide adequate veterinary care to its animals in compliance with this section: (b) Each research facility shall establish and maintain programs of adequate veterinary care that include: (1) The availability of appropriate facilities, personnel, equipment, and services to comply with the provisions of this subchapter . . . .”

Dr. John Gluck, former animal researcher, was disgusted when he read the documents, stating: 

"As a scientist involved in animal research for over 30 years, I was disgusted to learn that some researchers at the Southern Research Institute were willing to allow rabbits, in the throes of a purposely induced painful death, to go unaided for the convenience of the research staff.  This situation reveals the denial of the expectation of basic ethical decency and indicts the oversight provided by the responsible IACUC."

We’re Demanding the Maximum Fine

No laboratory should be allowed to leave innocent rabbits to suffer a painful death because they are not adequately staffed. We wrote this letter to the USDA’s Animal Care Division to ask that they levy the maximum fine to Southern Research for this negligence. Under current law, the maximum fine per violation is $11,390. 

Tell the USDA to enforce the law and fine Southern Research for failing to provide adequate veterinary care to rabbits in their laboratory.