Animal rights group says animal deaths at Johns Hopkins violated law

USDA will investigate monkeys and rabbit deaths in Johns Hopkins' labs

An animal rights group has filed a complaint with federal regulators against the Johns Hopkins University over the deaths of three monkeys and a rabbit in 2014.

Stop Animal Exploitation Now, which opposes all animal experimentation, has filed complaints under the Animal Welfare Act against several universities, including the University of Maryland.

"Major violations of the Animal Welfare Act are considered to be very serious in nature, especially when the violations kill or seriously injure animals," the group said in a letter Saturday to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which enforces the law.

A USDA spokeswoman said the agency would investigate the claim.

Spokeswoman Tanya Espinosa had no update on a complaint SAEN filed last year against the University of Maryland. The group said Maryland violated the law in its care of bats.

SAEN's complaint against Hopkins was based on letters the university wrote to the National Institutes of Health disclosing the animal deaths. Hopkins said the monkeys died by accidental strangulation and the rabbit perished when it was left in a cage sent for cleaning.

NIH's Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare enforces its own policies in labs it funds. The office said in a statement that its cases against Hopkins and Maryland were both closed and both universities were in good standing.

Audrey Huang, a Hopkins spokeswoman, said the university holds itself to "the strongest ethical values," and incidents involving animals used for research and teaching are a significant concern. She said officials have already reported any program changes to NIH, and planned to cooperate with the USDA review.

Officials at the University of Maryland did not respond to requests for comment.

Labs that are found in violation of the law can be fined $10,000 per infraction.

SAEN said last year that the USDA had cited 16 labs after the group complained.

Michael Budkie, the group's founder, called animal experimentation "unethical" and "wasteful of funds." He said "information from other species does not generalize to humans."

meredith.cohn@baltsun.com

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