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Animal Rights Group Hopes for Investigation After the Death of Three Ferrets in UAB’s Labs

Copyright: USFWS Mountain-Prairie. No Changes Were Made.

UAB’s animal testing should be investagated for alleged misconduct which lead to the deaths of multiple ferrets due to smoke asphyxiation, according to an Ohio-based animal rights group.

“It is clear that the UAB staff involved in this procedure were not properly trained or qualified to perform this procedure,” said Michael A. Budkie, the executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now, in a federal complaint sent to the United States Department of Agriculture. “The machine was not properly checked before the procedure was initiated, and no one present could tell that the ferrets were suffocating.”

Budkie said UAB was the one to publish a report behind what had happened to cause the ferrets to suffocate.

“. . . three female ferrets (out of a total of ten in this cohort) died during a routine research cigarette smoke exposure,” according to the UAB report. “This line mixed fresh air with the cigarette smoke from the machine before delivery to the animals. In this case, the line had worked loose over time allowing it to be detached from the mixing bottle.”

Budkie said UAB is in multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act due to jeopardizing the health of multiple animals as well as falsifying records.

“There is no more serious or severe adverse effect,” Budkie said, “on the health and well-being of an animal than death.”

However, Tyler Greer, the Spokesperson and Assistant Vice President of Public Relations and Marketing, said in a email statement UAB has taken appropriate steps for this incident to not recur.

“This matter was investigated by the UAB Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee and self-reported in 2020 to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Institutes of Health Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare,” Greer said. “OLAW confirmed that we took appropriate corrective action to ensure a similar incident does not happen again.”

Greer defended the university’s animal testing due to the medical advancements that are made for humanity.

“Virtually all medical knowledge and treatment – certainly every medical breakthrough of the last century, including for COVID-19 – has involved research with animals,” Greer said. “UAB has a rich history of medical advancements made possible by research with animals, and we respect the great contributions made by animals to science for the benefit of both humans and animals alike – not only at UAB, but around the world.”

Budkie said if the records for research are falsified then it renders the research unvaluable.

“Falsification of records not only jeopardizes the health and well-being of the animals,” Budkie said, “it also renders any project in which the records were deliberately inaccurate to be scientifically meaningless.”

Budkie has asked that a full investigation be launched against UAB and that the university pay the maximum fines.

“I must insist that you take the most severe action allowable under the Animal Welfare Act and immediately launch a full investigation,” Budkie said, “and at the conclusion of the investigation issue the maximum fine allowable against University of Alabama, Birmingham, (64-R-0004) — $10,000 per infraction, per animal.”

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