2017 Utah Legislative Session – UARC Official Position Statements

S.B. 56 – Animal Shelter Amendments – SUPPORT

Senate Bill 56, sponsored by Senator Knudson, would require animal shelters in the state of Utah to euthanize animals only by means of an intravenous injection of sodium pentobarbital. S.B. 56 also would institute common sense standards requiring shelters to have a euthanasia training program in place.

UARC stands in agreement with virtually every other animal protection organization and veterinary association that euthanasia by injection is the most humane and cost-effective method of euthanasia. Seven shelters in Utah still kill at least some animals via the use of a carbon monoxide gas chambers. At two shelters, this cruel method is the exclusive means of killing animals. That is unacceptable.

Animals placed in a gas chamber can take as long as 45 minutes to die as they bark, meow, or howl in fear as the chamber fills with gas and they slowly suffocate. There have even been instances when animals have survived this terrifying process and must be gassed again. For these reasons, UARC even rejects the use of the term “euthanasia” in association with this barbaric practice. We urge Utah legislators to support S.B 56.

S.B. 136 – Animal Shelter Revisions – SUPPORT

Senate Bill 136, sponsored by Senator Davis, would strengthen Utah’s cruelty to animals statute by ensuring that animals who are left at the end of a chain have access to minimal shelter during times of inclement weather. The bill also establishes common sense standards as to what constitutes “shelter,” making clear that a crawl space under a porch or the area under a motor vehicle are insufficient.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund releases regular rankings of each state’s animal protection laws. In its most recent assessment, Utah is ranked 47th. This abysmal ranking would be greatly improved if we strengthened our state cruelty-to-animals law, and passing S.B. 136 would go a long way towards meeting that laudable goal.

S.B. 179 – Animal Care and Control Appreciation Week – SUPPORT

Senate Bill 179 would designate a week in April as “Animal Care and Control Appreciation Week.” While this bill is largely symbolic, it is important to acknowledge that animal control officers have an incredibly difficult job and must juggle a number of responsibilities, including protecting the public from aggressive animals and enforcing humane laws. Many animal control agencies also are tasked with operating an animal shelter, a difficult and often thankless task. UARC regularly reaches out to animal control agencies when we are notified of a report of animal cruelty, and these officers are on the front lines responding to these public complaints. UARC thanks them for their assistance, and agrees that animal control officers deserve a great deal of respect and commendation.

H.B. 298 – Free Expression Regulation by Local Government – SUPPORT

House Bill 298, sponsored by Rep. Thurston, would require local municipalities to ensure any ordinances are consistent with established First Amendment case law, which protects the right to peaceably assemble and demonstrate.  UARC is taking a position on this bill because our organization frequently exercises our First Amendment rights to protest and demonstrate. In fact, over the years, UARC has filed a number of lawsuits in federal court against political subdivisions in Utah to ensure our organization’s rights are respected.

In one sense, H.B. 298 is duplicative, because neither state law nor local ordinance can supersede federal constitutional law, which already protects this right. However, UARC supports H.B. 298 because it may help put local governments on notice, thereby preventing an unneeded legal dispute from arising in the first place. Additionally, H.B. 298 may also help protect the First Amendment rights of individuals who may not have access to legal representation and the courts.

H.B. 54 – Campus Free Speech Amendments – SUPPORT

House Bill 54, sponsored by Rep. Coleman, clearly defines all outdoor gathering areas on college campuses to be “traditional public forums” for First Amendment purposes. UARC frequently protests animal research and circuses on college campuses, and we support this bill to ensure our right to continue these demonstrations is protected.

UARC has no official position on any other pending bill in the 2017 session.

RELEASE: Thousands of Attendees Expected at Inaugural SLC VegFest this Saturday at SLC Library Square

September 6, 2016 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Amy Meyer, amy@slcveg.com

This Saturday, thousands of vegans and veg-curious people will descend on the Salt Lake City Main Library Plaza for the inaugural “SLC VegFest,” a free festival presented by the Utah Animal Rights Coalition (UARC). VegFest will feature food, a beer garden, live music, and informational sessions about how going vegan can improve your health, fight climate change, and save the lives of more than 100 animals every year. More than 20 exhibitors will be present.

“There is growing awareness about how the meat and dairy industries are cruel to animals and a disaster for the environment,” said Amy Meyer, Executive Director of VegFest. “VegFest will be a fun event for people of all ages, as well as a great resource for anyone interested in going vegan but needing help learning how to do so.”

SLC VegFest is a 100% vegan event. Several restaurant vendors will be on hand preparing and serving delicious vegan meals, including Piper Down Pub, Ice Haus, Sage’s Cafe, and Soul Traveler Foods. These vendors will be selling a diversity of options, including vegan “fish” and chips, shepherd’s pie, brats, tacos, mac and “cheese,” Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, and tofu-eggs benedict. Additionally, attendees can buy vegan pastries from Passion Flour Patisserie and Big O Doughnuts, cold-pressed juice from Vive Juicery, and gourmet cashew “cheeses” from Zest Kitchen.

Attendees will have the opportunity to listen to a variety of speakers inside the library auditorium. Speakers will present information about why and how to go vegan, including a keynote address from Matt Ruscigno, MPH RD, who will be giving a talk on how going vegan doesn’t mean you have to prepare expensive or exotic foods.

With a designated kid’s area featuring an inflatable slide, VegFest is an event for families and people of all ages. VegFest also features an Athlete Expo exhibition area, where athletes demonstrate their physical prowess and answer questions about how vegan athletes can best satisfy nutritional needs. The athlete expo will also offer free fitness and yoga classes to attendees.

SLC VegFest will take place Saturday, September 10 from 11 am – 6 pm.
For more information, visit www.slcveg.com

 

The Shameful Bear Circus at the Salt Lake County Fair

Following an investigation by UARC on opening night at the Salt Lake County Fair, we urge our supporters to join us in pressuring the fair organizers to immediately cancel all future scheduled performances of “The Great Bear Show,” a bear circus currently featured at the event. This morning, UARC filed an urgent complaint with USDA officials, alleging violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) at the Salt Lake County Fair.

metal chain hangs from black bear forced to stand on back legs
Steele keeps a metal chain around the bear’s neck while making them perform tricks. Photo: UARC

UARC investigators observed handlers tie an iron chain around the bears’ necks, where the bears appeared to be missing patches of hair. The bears were also pacing neurotically in their cages, a sign of significant stress. The animals were allowed close and unsafe contact with audience members who paid to have their pictures taken with the bear.

bear next to family separated by thin plexiglass
A flimsy plexiglass barrier is all that separates an unrestrained full-grown bear from families as their photo is taken. Photo: UARC

A closer look into Bob Steele, the owner of “The Great Bear Show,” reveals even more cause for concern. The USDA has issued Steele citations for violating the AWA on March 12, 2012, February 5, 2015, August 26, 2015, and March 7, 2016. One of his repeat offenses is failure to provide adequate  veterinary care, demonstrated by significant hair loss on Barney, a young black bear in his care. Despite being cited just months ago, Steele continues to wrap an iron chain around Barney’s neck, where much of the patches of hair loss have been documented, and make him perform tricks in front of small crowds of fairgoers. The Montana Standard also noted Barney’s hair loss at the Butte-Silver Bow County fair just two weeks ago.

Great Bear Show
Steele pulls on a metal chain wrapped around one bear’s neck to make him do tricks for the audience. Photo: UARC

It is deeply troubling that Mr. Steele is still allowed to conduct business with animals despite his continued violations. The AWA enforcement system is profoundly broken and fails to protect animals.

Animal abuse is inconsistent with the values of Salt Lake County.

Take action:

  1. Call the Salt Lake County Fair at (385) 468-3247 and politely ask that they cancel all the currently scheduled appearances of “The Great Bear Show.”
  2. Sign UARC’s change.org petition asking that the County prohibit the use of all exotic animal circuses and performing animal acts at county-owned facilities. 
  3. Share on social media and encourage friends to sign.
  4. If you are a resident of Salt Lake County, contact your County Councilmember directly to tell them you support UARC’s efforts to prohibit exotic animal circuses at the equestrian park.

Crowdsourcing Transparency in Government

In May 2016, the University of Utah was cited by federal authorities for violating the Animal Welfare Act  when a monkey was  burned during a procedure. Written protocols called for a warming blanket to be used and for the animals’ temperature to be continuously monitored. Neither precaution was taken. In a desperate attempt to bring the animal’s temperature back to normal, the monkey was severely burned with a “hot air” tube. The animal was subsequently euthanized. Failure to comply with simple written instructions was an act of extreme negligence on the part of university staff, and this monkey paid the price for that negligence with his or her life.

Fox 13 News initially reported on the U’s violations. Despite the fact that the story was accurate, and that the photographs were indeed taken inside the University of Utah, university spokespersons misled the station’s news director claiming that they were simply “PETA stock photos.” The story was scrubbed from the internet. The university’s effort to bury this embarrassing story worked. At least in the short term.

There are still a lot of details we don’t know about this incident. We don’t know how this breakdown of oversight happened, nor do we know if anyone was held accountable. We don’t know the nature of the experiment the monkey was used in. The university has not even released this poor monkey’s name (if she has one).

In an effort to learn more about what happened to this animal in this taxpayer-funded laboratory, Utah Animal Rights Coalition (UARC) has filed an open records request  under Utah’s Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA). We requested internal memos, correspondence, veterinary records, and written protocols related to this monkey and the incident where the U broke the law.

The U of U’s legal department responded to UARC’s request by demanding $325 in fees. In consultation with counsel, UARC considered our appeal options, but it was determined an appeal would not likely succeed.
Unfortunately, GRAMA’s fees provisions are incredibly weak. The law allows government agencies complete discretion as to whether or not fees are waived, even if the records are related to a matter of significant public concern. Obviously, when the records would embarrass an agency, fees are rarely waived. There have been legislative efforts to strengthen GRAMA in this respect , but so far these bills have failed.

We think it us vital to acquire these records so we can tell the story of what happened to this animal. The public paid for this experiment, and the people deserve to know the truth, especially when misconduct or negligence occurred. UARC also wants to demonstrate to the university that the public cares about this issue, and that the school’s refusal to offer transparency is unacceptable.

UARC is not aiming to raise any funds for our organization off this tragedy. We are only raising the necessary fees that the school is demanding for the records related to this incident. It’s unfortunate that transparency in government requires a crowdsourcing campaign like this one, but that is where we are.

We know the U will never release these unflattering records voluntarily. It’s on us to raise these funds so that the truth can see the light of day. Thank you.

DONATE TO THE CAMPAIGN HERE: https://www.gofundme.com/UofUMonkey

UARC Volunteers Serve Vegan Dinner to Teens at Youth Resource Center

On Saturday evening, a group of ten UARC volunteers cooked and served a vegan dinner at the Youth Resource Center.  Operated by Volunteers of America, the Youth Resource Center is a safe place for youth ages 15-22 years of age who are experiencing or at-risk of homelessness. They provide emergency overnight shelter, services and case management. Each year they serve 800+ teens through this facility.

Being able to help out my community by feeding the less fortunate compassionate & healthy food is a great opportunity I’ll never pass up.
– Leigh Harris, volunteer

plate of vegan sloppy joes, pasta salad, and watermelon

It was a win-win for everyone – teens enjoyed a healthy vegan meal, while volunteers learned how to cook new vegan recipes and met other like-minded individuals. We prepared to serve 50 individuals vegan sloppy joe’s, pasta salad, and watermelon.

I think reaching out to people and showing them how delicious food can be without animal products is fantastic. It was my first time at the youth center, which had a profound affect on me. The kids were great and I can’t wait to serve them again soon. 
– Michelle Johnson, volunteer

Staying within our $100 budget while serving fresh vegan dinner proved easy, with cheap fresh produce plentiful at Rancho Market and quality vegan buns and TVP for the sloppy joe’s found at Smith’s Marketplace.  Cooking vegan is not just healthy and delicious – it’s affordable too!

giant pot of vegan sloppy joes made with TVP

I was a little worried the kids wouldn’t care for our vegan Sloppy Joe’s, but judging from all the clean plates, I think they were a great success!
– Shawn Harris, volunteer

The sloppy joe’s recipe came from the New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook, a vegan classic. See the recipe here and try it yourself! We recommend substituting ketchup for half of the tomato sauce, and adding minced garlic.

volunteers chop veggies in kitchen at youth resource center salt lake city

I have never met a more compassionate and dedicated group of volunteers. They jumped right in to dicing pounds of vegetables and fruit, cooking sloppy joe’s, and scrubbing dishes. As soon as a task was realized, someone was on it. Their hard work paid off as soon as the kids, who were anxiously awaiting to eat what they could smell for the last two hours, started coming back for seconds.
– Amy Meyer, UARC Board Member

UARC will continue to serve vegan dinner at the Youth Resource Center once a month. You can support our work by donating to UARC to cover food costs, or sign up to join the next volunteer group.

 

Get Involved

 

Volunteer with UARC

Are you passionate about helping animals, people, and the environment? Take your commitment to the next level and become a UARC volunteer! UARC volunteers help with a variety of projects including:

  • Handing out literature and talking to people about living vegan at tabling events (farmers markets, outside concerts, etc.)
  • Cooking and serving vegan meals to youth at risk of, or currently experiencing homelessness in our community.
  • Participate in protests or demonstrations as the need arises.
  • Making SLC VegFest a huge success!

Please click the button below to view more details and to sign up for a volunteer shift. Together, we can bring more compassion to our community.

Click to View Our SignUps on SignUp.com

A Monkey Tale

News story highlighting animal testing mysteriously disappears


Frik, a monkey that underwent lab testing at U of U in 2009. This is not the monkey that was euthanized.
Frik, a monkey that underwent lab testing at U of U in 2009. This is not the monkey that was euthanized.

The story was made for television: A University of Utah research laboratory is performing tests on monkeys. A dose of anesthesia is given to a monkey so it can undergo a CT scan. The monkey’s body gets dangerously cold, and someone in the laboratory uses a special heater to warm the animal up. But instead, the animal is burned and, to halt its suffering, euthanized.

These are the nuts and bolts of a news story that aired Wednesday, June 1 on Fox 13, but was later scrubbed from its website and social media pages.

Animal rights activists began drawing attention to the monkey, which died in August 2015, after the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a report in May 2016 that documented “failure of appropriate communication and oversight” by the university’s veterinary staff.

The Salt Lake Tribune wrote a story, and Fox 13 reporter Kiersten Nuñez put her piece together. But university officials felt the television story contained inaccuracies and also failed to give them the chance to respond to animal rights activists, who characterized the incident as “extreme negligence.”

With stories about the controversial practice of animal testing disappearing from the internet, Jeremy Beckham, the vivisection issues coordinator at the Utah Animal Rights Coalition, says the scenario strikes him as “borderline Orwellian.”

“It’s like you want the public to forget it even happened,” Beckham says. “Just deleting the whole thing is wildly irresponsible.”

Before the story could be removed, Beckham says it had been shared more than 1,000 times on Facebook and had garnered hundreds of comments.

Kathy Wilets, the University of Utah’s director of media relations, says that while she asked Fox 13 news executives to meet with her to discuss the school’s concerns with the story, she never asked for it to be removed. “I’m not trying to block any sort of reporting,” Wilets says. “We’re a university and there are groups out there who are watching what we’re doing, as they should. I just want to make sure that if others speak out on it that we at least have an opportunity to respond to what they’re saying.”

Wilets says Fox reporter Nuñez reached out to her and asked for an on-camera interview. But Wilets couldn’t make the interview that day, and a written statement was given to the news station.

Beckham, on the other hand, did make the interview, and the story, he says, understandably focused in on his points of view.

“This reporter, from my understanding, gave the University of Utah ample opportunity to provide someone for comment,” Beckham says. “If they don’t do that, then I really don’t think they can complain that their viewpoint wasn’t in the story.”

Fox 13 assistant news director Marc Sternfield directed City Weekly to the public relations wing of the station’s owner, Tribune Company.

In an email, Tribune spokesperson Jessica Bellucci wrote: “The story didn’t meet the station’s journalistic standards (and didn’t present both sides of the story) thus it was decided the piece would be pulled from the site.”

Nuñez declined to comment, also referring any questions to the Tribune Company.

While the saga of the disappearing story itself has intrigue, the University of Utah’s long history with animal testing laboratories remains controversial, and, in the eyes of activists like Beckham, is downright cruel.

But for scientists and doctors at the school, animal testing, they say, has provided a key bridge between a good chunk of modern scientific and medicinal breakthroughs.

The university’s attending veterinarian, who helps ensure that animals undergoing testing are being treated humanely, says that while all research projects are not “Disneyesque,” they are a far cry from torture.

“Many of the animals that are kept as pets have much tougher lives than the animals we care for here,” says the veterinarian, who, citing security concerns, asked that his name be withheld. “The image of research animals that are undergoing significant torture and distress is false and we make sure that that’s not the case.”

The monkey was injured while undergoing tests on a genetic disorder present in some children that impacts certain regions of the brain.

The University of Utah receives millions of dollars each year for projects that involve animal testing. This particular study, the school’s veterinarian says, involved funding from the National Institutes of Health. Beckham says more than $5 million has been spent on the study involving the monkey.

The National Science Foundation also contributes large sums of money to the university for a wide range of studies, including some on animals. One study, which commenced on Sept. 1, 2015, was for $925,000. By using something called computational cannula microscopy, the study aims to take brain scans of “awake, freely moving animals in unprecedented spatial resolution.”

While university officials say animal research is important, Beckham disagrees. And he says that, specifically with monkeys, there is no humane way to keep them stored away in confinement.

“What you see in laboratories all over the world when you put monkeys in this type of environment, they start to exhibit several signs of mental distress, mental illness,” Beckham says.

Monkeys, he says, have been known to bite themselves as they go “mad from this type of environment.”

“This is all, I think, hideously unethical,” Beckham says. “I don’t think it’s giving us scientifically valuable information.”

One of Wilets’ problems with the Fox 13 story was the use of a picture that shows a monkey in a cage with some sort of device screwed onto its head.

Wilets says she doesn’t know if the photograph was taken at the University of Utah. The school’s veterinarian says that he, too, doesn’t know where the photo was taken. If it was taken at the school, the veterinarian says that the type of headgear installed on the monkey is no longer used at the school.

Beckham, though, says the picture, of a monkey named Frik, provided by the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), was taken in 2009 at the University of Utah by a PETA field observer.

A PETA official in Washington D.C. confirmed that the photo was taken inside a U of U laboratory.

What Wilets and the veterinarian want the public to understand is that the school does what it can to ensure the safety and welfare of the myriad animals it uses for testing.

“I think, obviously, animal research is a controversial subject, but the reality is just about every medical advance we’ve enjoyed as a society and as veterinarians to treat patients has come, one way or another, from animal research,” the veterinarian says.

But on the other side of the testing debate, Beckham says he’d like Utahns to know that a monkey was put to sleep, its temperature wasn’t properly monitored and then it was burned severely enough that university officials thought it best to kill the animal.

And as for the Fox 13 news story, which seems to have succeeded in evaporating from the internet, Beckham says that as he sees it, the story was “pretty much entirely accurate.”

The Heartbreaking True Story of a Dog Left to Die in a Hot Car

On June 4, 2016, a dog died of heat exhaustion after being left in a parked car in Salt Lake City, Utah. UARC has obtained the investigative report of the incident. Below is this dog’s story, along with excerpts from the official report. 


1. A 15-month old yellow lab was left in a parked car. The temperature outside was 88 °F. A responding officer said she was “crumpled up on the floorboard,” barely breathing, and nonresponsive.

Dog-in-Hot-Car-2

2. The officer broke into the car. The dog was unconscious but breathing. First aid was applied and she was taken to an emergency vet.

Dog-in-Hot-Car-3

3. The car had all an all-black interior. The temperature was recorded in the vehicle at over 122.5 °F, even after the door had been open for a few minutes.

Dog-in-Hot-Car-4

4. The driver told the officer he left the dog inside the car, with no water, for more than four hours while he engaged in “recreational painting.” Not once did he check on her. 

Dog-in-Hot-Car-5

5. Despite being rushed to the veterinarian, she died. Vet staff said the dog’s internal temperature was “too high to register on their thermometer.”Dog-in-Hot-Car-6

6. The owner defended his actions saying he “did not think it was that hot outside.”

Dog-in-Hot-Car-8


Thank you to Salt Lake County Animal Services officers for heroically trying to save this dog’s life, and saving the lives of countless others.

If you see an animal trapped in a parked car, it is vital that you call your local animal control agency immediately. Take photographs of the vehicle and its license plates. Go into local businesses and have the owner of the vehicle paged. And don’t leave the dog’s side until emergency responders arrive.

Some states are providing civil and criminal immunity for those who forcibly enter a vehicle to rescue an animal in peril. Unlike a dog’s life, broken car windows can be replaced. 

Official Report: Dog Found Dying in Parked Car had Internal Temperature “Too High to Register”

UARC Calls for Changes to Local Laws to Prevent Future Tragedies

JUNE 8, 2016
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Jeff Dixon

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – Utah Animal Rights Coalition (UARC) has obtained disturbing investigative reports from Salt Lake County Animal Services regarding the tragic incident last weekend where a  a yellow Labrador retriever was left to die in a parked car in Salt Lake City. 

Officers responding to the incident Saturday took temperature readings inside the car–which had an all-black interior–of more than 122 degrees. The outside temperature at the time of the response was in the high 80s. Veterinary staff reported to police that the dog’s internal temperature was “too high to register on their thermometer.” The dog’s owner admitted to not checking on her for more than four hours while he was engaged in “recreational painting.”

“The negligence shown in this case is heartbreaking,” said Jeff Dixon, public policy coordinator for UARC. “Sadly, it’s not an isolated incident, and it is clear that stronger action is needed to help the public understand that leaving a pet in a car can easily lead to a health emergency and even death.”

UARC recommends that local officials consider enacting the following policy changes:

  • A new legal requirement that signs be publicly posted in commercial parking lots where there has been a consistent pattern of dogs beings left in hot cars. See attached for suggested artwork for such a sign.
  • Every minute matters in these situations. Local officials should review and strengthen response protocols to ensure that reports of life-threatening negligence and abuse receive an urgent response, including the use of police emergency vehicle lights.
  • The law should provide individuals with criminal and civil immunity for damage to a motor vehicle when it can be established that the damage was necessary to secure the rescue of an endangered person or animal. Such a law recently went into effect in Florida.

UARC urges anyone who sees a dog left in a car this summer to immediately call authorities, even if the windows are cracked.  After placing the call, take a picture of the vehicle’s license plate, and walk into nearby businesses so the owner can be paged to return to their vehicle at once.  Stay with the dog until responders arrive. People should not assume that the dog’s owner will return soon or that someone else has already called.

To review the animal control reports, click here. 

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SLCoAS-hot-dog-sign
Policymakers should consider a legal requirement that retail parking lots that have had recurring problems post visible signs like the one above.

Feds Cite University of Utah Laboratory for Negligently Burning Monkey

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Planet Health Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS) issued a damning inspection report related to the use of monkeys in experiments at the University of Utah. The report states that the U twice violated the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) in connection to an incident when a monkey was severely burned during surgery. The monkey’s burns were so severe that he or she was euthanized. UARC has already submitted a GRAMA request for internal records at the school to learn more details about this incident. We will post the records on our website when we have them.

Most of the monkeys at the U are used in invasive brain experiments conducted by Alessandra Angelucci. Monkeys in this laboratory have a stainless steel “halo” device screwed directly into their skull and electrodes implanted in their brains. The monkeys are then deprived of water before being strapped into a restraint device and forced to stare at a screen. The monkeys, who are awake and conscious, are restrained and have their heads immobilized for hours at a time. Federal data indicates that more than $5.2 million in taxpayer funds have already been wasted on these hideously cruel experiments.

A monkey named Frik imprisoned at the University of Utah.
A monkey named Frik imprisoned at the University of Utah.

When they aren’t being hurt by experimenters, these highly intelligent primates are confined to tiny, barren stainless steel cages. Primates in laboratories offer suffer long-term psychological damage, and exhibit neurotic behavior like endless pacing and self-mutilating.1Novak MA. Self-injurious behavior in rhesus monkeys: New insights into its etiology, physiology, and treatment. Am J Primatol. 2003;59(1):3-19. http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/ajp.10063.

Monkeys at the U live for years in tiny, stainless steel cages

The USDA inspection report blasts the U for “a failure of appropriate communication and oversight” in connection with the recent incident. The written protocol for the experiment required that the monkey’s internal body temperature be recorded continuously during the procedure, but lab staff failed to do so. Additionally, an unknown “hot air source” was inappropriately used to warm the animal, which caused a severe and ultimately fatal burn. These abject failures are troubling.

It’s not the first time the University of Utah’s animal research program has been in hot water with federal authorities. Following an undercover PETA investigation, the U was cited in 2010 for several violations of the AWA. Violations included allowing a kitten to die of dehydration, overcrowding animals in filthy cages, and neglecting primates for days at a time. The U’s only defense is that these violations weren’t “intentional,” but that doesn’t excuse acts of gross negligence.

In February 2011, after even more violations, the USDA took the rare step of issuing an “Official Warning” against the school for continuing to violate the AWA. Later that year, the U came under fire for killing a dog named Sunny, who was found as a stray. Sunny was killed despite the fact that she had a microchip with Utah Animal Adoption Center’s contact information. The organization was never contacted.

Robert, a cat at the University of Utah laboratory
Robert, a cat at the University of Utah laboratory

Unfortunately, history demonstrates that being cited with violating the AWA does little to ensure greater compliance going forward. A 2014 audit by the USDA Office of Investigator General (OIG) found that APHIS prematurely closes cases with warnings or very small fines, even when they involve “grave (e.g., animal deaths) or repeat welfare violations.”  An animal experimentation industry spokesperson was quoted in Science Magazine as saying that the audit was “pretty damning.” In reality, its findings revealed little that wasn’t already known before. Similar OIG audits in 1985, 1995, and 2005 all found that USDA enforcement of the AWA is extremely lax and ineffectual. Most research facilities consider the warnings and meager fines for violating the law as a small cost of doing business.

A long history of repeatedly violating the AWA has not resulted in the University of Utah cleaning up its act, and UARC doesn’t expect anything different from the latest citations. Additionally, Utah’s state cruelty laws essentially exempt animals who are being used in research from protection.2Utah Code Ann. § 76-9-301(7)(b). http://le.utah.gov/xcode/Title76/Chapter9/76-9-S301.html. In all likelihood, the U will be let off with another slap on the wrist, and the animals will continue to suffer.

If you’re a University of Utah alum, like most UARC board members, please voice your opposition to the school’s use of animals in experimentation to the alumni association. Additionally, refuse to donate to the school until it enters the 21st century of medical science and phases out the use of animals in research.

References   [ + ]

Fighting Speciesism and Cruelty to Animals in Utah