USDA inspection finds neglected research animals in UofM lab

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) – A routine inspection by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) revealed numerous violations inside a laboratory at the University of Memphis, where dozens of animals from researcher reportedly died of neglect in the campus lab. .

The inspection took place from August 22-23 and revealed numerous protocol violations within the University of Memphis Animal Care and Use Programwho is responsible for regulatory and veterinary oversight of all research activities involving animals at the school.

The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) is responsible for overseeing the school’s program and ensuring compliance with all applicable regulations, laws, and university policies.

The USDA found 475 rodents in the lab, including 31 Russian dwarf hamsters, 62 naked mole rats, 119 European common voles and 263 Damaraland mole rats.

Since July 19, the USDA has found that there have been 15 deaths inside the lab, including animals found dead and those euthanized for medical reasons.

Prior to this, only four deaths had been reported since October 2021, indicating a sudden increase in neglect in recent months; however, this number does not include a broken HVAC unit on April 1 that resulted in the death of 12 voles from overheating.

The report indicates that the laboratory is obligatory to carry out daily observations on the animals, and the assistant director of the laboratory indicated that “this is not done and has not been done for a long time”.

In fact, the report states that no approximate number of animals inside the lab could be provided, and only animal species were listed. A description of animal use was also not found.

The USDA found that in the lab’s 2021 annual report, the wrong species were listed along with the incorrect number of animals.

“Accurate annual report reporting is important for transparency and public oversight of animal use in research,” the report says.

The USDA said the lab’s written protocol indicates that euthanasia is not permitted, but the same protocol lists many methods of euthanasia as well as the employees authorized to perform this task.

Many animals were reportedly euthanized due to serious injuries from fighting with other animals, including head and facial injuries, swollen eyes and swollen legs.

Medical records showed that in May a vole suffered from a swollen, red, hairless left front limb and the attending veterinarian recommended euthanasia, but the animal was only put down near a month later. No further records of the vole’s care between that time could be found, and the attending veterinarian and associate director admitted they “couldn’t remember at all” the vole.

The associate director said no medication could have been given to the injured vole during this time, as none are kept inside the lab.

During the inspection, the associate director also said stress in the lab likely contributed to aggression between the animals, such as faulty lights that were left on 24 hours a day and the noise of a dehumidifier.

The USDA said both of these issues have been corrected; however, time frames have been given to the laboratory to correct any non-compliance issues listed in the report.

The full inspection report can be viewed here.

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