The University of Louisiana at Lafayette says a federal regulatory agency has cleared it of wrongdoing in two incidents just over a year ago that led to the death of one primate and to the amputation of another primate’s leg at the university’s New Iberia Research Center.
UL-Lafayette reported the incident to the compliance officials with the National Institute of Health’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare in a timely and open manner, according to a letter cited in a university news release.
“The timely action taken to respond to the issue was appropriate,” wrote Brent C. Morse, animal welfare specialist with the Division of Compliance at the federal regulatory agency.
“Due to the actual and potential animal welfare hazard, it was appropriate to take extensive measures to assure prevention of a recurrence of this unfortunate incident,” Morse said. “We appreciate being informed of this matter and find no cause for further action by this office.”
Morse’s letter, dated April 18, was released by UL-Lafayette officials this week in response to an animal rights advocate’s filing of a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The New Iberia Research Center specializes in breeding, managing and importing primate species for research purposes aimed at promoting human quality of health, according to the center’s website.
There were two incidents just over a year ago involving primates at the facility that were reported to regulatory authorities.
On Oct. 21, 2013, a pigtailed macaque was found electrocuted in an enclosure in which workers were preparing the primate’s habitats for the winter weather.
“An electrical contractor determined that there was a loose ground wire in the junction box for the heating lamp assembly and that the insulation surrounding one of the electrical wires had worn through, so that copper electric wire was in contact with a metal junction box,” said Dr. Ramesh Kolluru, vice president for research at the university.
According to a UL-Lafayette news release, the NIRC replaced all internal wiring, installed conduit insulators to protect wiring, added more ground connections, tested ground continuity, inspected heat lamp socket assemblies, installed receptacle plates and conducted controlled circuit testing.
A separate incident involving a female pigtailed macaque occurred on Nov. 12, 2013. In that case, a technician trying to corral the primate for an examination fractured the animal’s hind leg, which then had to be amputated, the release states.
Since then, another incident involving NIRC primates has yet to surface.
“Many improvements were subsequently made,” Kolluru said. “Heaters were used in outdoor closures without incident when temperatures dropped earlier this fall.”
Michael Budkie, director and animal rights activist with the Stop Animal Experimentation Now group, has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
USDA Public Affairs Specialist Tanya Espinoza confirmed that the department has received Stop Animal Experimentation Now ’s complaint. She said the agency will look into the complaint, although there’s not currently an investigation underway.