OU Official Responds To Complaint Over Baboon Deaths


Tuesday, July 7th 2015, 11:40 am

By: News 9


An official with the University of Oklahoma’s Health Sciences Center is responding to a group's request for an investigation into deaths of young baboons at the university.

On Monday, News 9 reported that the national research watchdog group Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN) asked the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to investigate OU, after documenting a number of deaths of young baboons at the university in 2014 and 2015.

7/6/2015 Related Story: Watchdog Group Files Complaint Against OU Over Baboon Deaths

In a letter to Dr. Elizabeth Goldentyer of the USDA APHIS regional office, SAEN listed 23 incidents of deaths to infant and young baboons that they say shows a pattern of neglect.

James J. Tomasek, Ph.D, Vice President for Research at OU, said the university is not aware of any investigation by the USDA or any other state or federal agency into the deaths of infant or juvenile baboons. Dr. Tomasek said OU maintains baboons in their normal social structure, as approved by the National Institutes of Health. 

7/2/2015 Related Story: Baboons Bred In Oklahoma As Resource For Research

Dr. Tomasek released the following statement concerning the issue,

"The University of Oklahoma (OU) dedicates significant resources and expertise to complying with all state, local and federal rules, regulations, and laws, including the Animal Welfare Act.  The University is not aware of any investigation by the USDA or any other state or federal agency into the deaths of infant or juvenile baboons, despite statements attributed to Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN) or any other group.  OU maintains baboons in their normal social structure, as approved by the National Institutes of Health.  Similar to their natural environment in the wild, deaths occur in the colony, particularly deaths of newborns and infants due to accidents and/or aggressive adult baboon behavior.  The University takes seriously any death in the colony, with evaluation for cause of death by OU Health Sciences Center veterinarians, the OU Health Sciences Center Office for Animal Welfare Assurance, and, when appropriate, a PhD-level baboon behavior expert. 

OU takes seriously its obligation to comply with all federal and regulatory standards related to animal welfare and insists on humane and ethical treatment of any animals used in research, education, and testing.  In fact, OU has never been charged with violating the Animal Welfare Act.  The most recent USDA Inspection Report states that “no non-compliant items were identified during this inspection” of the OU Health Sciences Center Animal Care and Use Program.  OU is confident that it has in place the necessary and appropriate safeguards to promote an ethical, humane, and compliant research program.

Among those safeguards, OU expects its employees to comply with the established standards, approved protocols, and regulations at all times.   Any deviations from those standards that are identified by the University or brought to the University’s attention are addressed immediately, and corrective actions are implemented swiftly.  

The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center Baboon Resource Program is supported by grants and collaboration from the National Institutes of Health.  The University supports the judicious and responsible use of animals in research, in the interests of human health and animal welfare.  The University is committed to the humane principles of “The Three Rs”:

·         Refine procedures to ensure the best care and comfort of involved animals;

·         Reduce the number of laboratory animals used to the lowest number practicable;

·         Replace animals with other models, when scientifically possible.

The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Program has been a voluntary accredited member of the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International since 1973.  The Association’s International accreditation program goes beyond federal regulations and rigorously evaluates organizations that use animals in research, teaching, or testing and awards accreditation to only those that meet or exceed the Association’s standards.

The University’s Animal Care and Use Program has five full-time licensed veterinarians specializing in laboratory animal medicine who directly oversee animal health and welfare on a daily basis.  In addition, as part of its program to ensure ongoing humane and ethical treatment of animals, the University staffs an Office of Animal Welfare Assurance, directed by a licensed veterinarian with expertise in laboratory animal medicine.  This office is dedicated to overseeing training of all researchers and their staff members involved in animal research, to strengthening their education and understanding related to regulatory matters and ethical and responsible animal research, and to ensuring and assisting with their adherence to Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee-approved protocols. "

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