USDA: Louisiana lab let monkey's broken arm go for days

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Keepers at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's primate lab broke a monkey's arm while moving her and her baby, and the injury went untreated until after an X-ray five days later, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture complaint.

The injury in 2013 and its lack of treatment are two of six allegations against the university's New Iberia Research Center in a complaint posted Thursday on the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service website.

A monkey died in 2013 after breaking two fingers in a poorly designed cage, five monkeys escaped earlier that year because their cages were held shut by easily removed latch clips, and the lab failed to properly clean perches for some monkeys in 2012, according to the complaint, which was filed March 9.

Spokesman Aaron Martin says the university is reviewing the complaint and will respond to the USDA.

"The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is committed to animal well-being and biomedical research that benefits animals and humans. NIRC's commitment to continuous improvement will enable us to respond to the complaint in a comprehensive manner," he said in an emailed statement.

Michael Budkie, executive director of the nonprofit group Stop Animal Exploitation Now, noted that the USDA has fined the university nearly $60,000 since 2007 for violating the Animal Welfare Act.

That includes $2,000 in 2007, after 55 rhesus monkeys escaped; $18,000 in 2010 for multiple issues, including improper animal handling; and nearly $38,600 in 2013 after three rhesus monkeys died.

"If the pattern continues, this next fine should be even larger," he said. According to Budkie, each allegation carries a maximum penalty of $10,000.

The USDA did not say whether it will penalize the university. ULL can negotiate with the agency or fight the allegations before an administrative law judge, Budkie said.

The mother monkey whose arm was broken was in a "squeeze restraint" — a cage with one panel that can be moved inward to immobilize a monkey for transport or medical procedures.

The complaint said that although the adult "resisted by holding her right arm against the cage and curling her body over her infant's," hiding her arms and legs from view, workers continued to move the panel inward. The monkey's arm was trapped between the side of the cage and the squeeze mechanism, the agency said.

Even though workers noticed that the monkey wasn't using her arm, she wasn't checked for injuries for five days, according to USDA.

The most recent alleged violation was last June, when an experiment was approved without the lead researcher's written assurance that it did not unnecessarily duplicate earlier work, USDA said.



The complaint:

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