USDA not likely to investigate death of cows at UI

By Ali Braboy

A recent standard inspection by the United States Department of Agriculture revealed five cows died at the University due to complications from surgery.

Lyndsay Cole, spokeswoman for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said there does not appear to be an open investigation at this time.

The USDA released a report on the Aug. 3 inspection stating that following a surgical procedure, five cows developed an infection and did not survive. The report stated it was a “major surgical procedure conducted in a prep area, not a surgical suite” and the “post-operative care was not adequate.”

As a result, four cows had to be euthanized and one died naturally, according to the report. Five instructors, three veterinarians and two technicians for six student groups operated on the cows. The report concluded the University recognized there were errors in the surgical technique and post-operative monitoring.

Robin Kaler, University spokeswoman, said the cows involved were part of a training exercise that occurred on April 24, and the event was a rare occurrence.

She said no one involved will be terminated, but the college will make changes. Surgeries will no longer be performed in the prep areas, and faculty and students will make sure to oversee the recovery of animals for longer periods of time.

She said it’s important to understand that outside of school, this type of surgery might be performed in locations that are less sanitary than laboratories, such as barns. She added that students in the field need to be trained in a place that is less than ideal.

Michael Budkie, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now, SAEN, said the organization is pushing for the University to be investigated and fined because of how the cows were treated.

SAEN is an organization based in Ohio that was founded in 1996 to end animal abuse in laboratories, according to the organization’s web site.

Budkie said the organization monitors information about research facilities around the country, such as reports from the USDA.

He said they look closely at reports if violations are cited. It’s important to push for meaningful penalties when animals die due to negligence; if nothing is done, there is nothing to stop a group from doing it in the future, Budkie said.

Cole said the University could possibly be fined, but several steps would need to be taken before that determination was made.

She said facilities that have “noncompliance” items identified during inspections are more likely to be inspected in the future. The University could receive a follow-up inspection to make sure the campus is following USDA protocol.

“It’s our job to make sure (the animals) are receiving the veterinary care that’s required by the Animal Welfare Act,” Cole said.

The Animal Welfare Act is the only federal law “that regulates the treatment of animals in research, exhibition, transport and by dealers,” according to the USDA’s website.

Budkie said the situation at the University is a basic kind of violation, because anyone who has worked with animals during surgical procedures understands they should be done in a sterile location to prevent infections.

“It’s important that this changes,” he said.

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