New documents released by an animal rights group reveal that a University of Texas Medical Branch veterinarian technician accidentally killed four lab animals by placing them in a cage washing machine.

The group, Stop Animal Exploitation Now, on Thursday released two letters it obtained from the National Institutes of Health through a public information request.

The letters describe two “adverse events” that occurred at the medical branch involving mice.

The first event occurred on April 18.

A husbandry technician cleaning cages placed a cage that contained four mice into an autoclave, a pressure cleaner used to sterilize lab equipment.

Michael Budkie, the executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now, said the mice’s deaths were inhumane.

“When you find mice inside the autoclave, that basically means those mice were boiled alive,” Budkie said.

In a letter sent to the National Institutes of Health’s Animal Welfare Program, Toni D’Agostino, the medical branch’s associate vice president of research administration, said the technician who cleans the cages was retrained and assigned a working partner, but did not receive further discipline.

“The technician took full responsibility for their actions,” D’Agostino wrote.

Another event occurred on May 12, when 24 mice being used by researchers died during an experiment. The medical branch reported the deaths because researchers failed to observe the animals during time intervals set forth by the medical branch’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

“By not performing the observations as stated, the committee believes it led to an animal welfare issues and prevented information from being collected that would address the true effectiveness of the investigator’s assessment criteria and observation time frames,” D’Agostino wrote.

The medical branch has been cited for not following its observation protocols before. In February 2015, a federal audit found that a group of macaques, a species of primate, at the medical branch died during a time when they were unattended. The monkeys had been infected with the Ebola virus.

Other reports concerning animal treatment have followed the audit.

In February 2016, the medical branch reported that 19 guinea pigs died in their cages instead of being euthanized.

In September, a research monkey escaped its cage and was euthanized after it was captured. The animal broke its leg while it was free.

On Nov. 21, the medical branch agreed to pay a $33,000 fine to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare and institute an improvement plan.

Medical branch officials have said they’ve changed procedures to address concerns noted in the audit and subsequent inspections.

“The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston reported these incidents internally and externally in an appropriate and timely manner to the proper regulatory agencies,” spokesman Raul Reyes said in an emailed statement. “UTMB remains firmly committed to ensuring the safety and welfare of research animals, a commitment that will advance UTMB’s contributions as a world leader in biomedical research and clinical care.”

Budkie’s group said the new reports reveal the changes have not curbed incidents at the medical branch, and called for the officials in charge of animal care, including D’Agostino, to be removed.

“UTMB is saying all of these things have been rectified, but if all of the same things are happening, what’s really changed?” he said.

“The point we’re trying to make is that despite the fact they’ve paid a fine and modified the program, it’s business as usual.”

Contact reporter John Wayne Ferguson at 409-683-5226 or Follow him on Twitter, @johnwferguson.


(15) comments

Kelly Naschke

Jeez......I hope these activists don't start sniffing around my house and find my rat poison or pesticide. I would hate to end up in the paper.

Jim Forsythe

It's not just the 4 mice. It's the history  of animals dying. If you are a faculty that uses animals for research, then you have a duty to not have "accidents " like they have been having. What have the deaths of the animals done to the studies the are doing? The mice you have at the house probley are not in a study. The animals  in a study cost a lot of money, and their deaths cost us as tax payers .

George Croix

It's 4 MICE, accidentally killed, for goodness sake...FRONT PAGE news at the GDN.....

It's no wonder this country is in the shape it's in.....

I kill 'em on purpose every chance I get....guess it's Old Sparky for me down the road.....[beam][beam][beam]

Utterly silly.....

Doyle Beard

Are these activist pro-life and against abortion?

Paula Flinn

The carelessness is what is deplorable. Accidents may happen, but they should be few and far between. If all of the hospital and lab mistakes were publicized over a ten year period, even for just one facility, people would be surprised.

Jim Forsythe

From what I have read , it's acceptable  to have 10% deaths in a research trial. After that the trial may have to be started over.  The cost and waste of not taking care of the animals ,is a not needed delay in getting the much needed research concluded so vaccines or cures can happen. 

"First you will need to purchase rats from vendors like Jackson or charles river. Depending on strain/age etc, the price for one rat is usually in the range of tens. For some genetic modified rats, the price can be more than $100. Then you will need pay for housing and food. The price for one cage is a few dollars per day. The actual number varies depending on the nature of testing like commercial or academic and location in the country. Usually one cage can house up to 2 rats. Other costs are personnel, reagents, equipment usuage etc which will vary greatly.Assume one test involves 30 rats, one researcher and lasts for two weeks, we are looking at $5000. This is a very simple test. Imagine that some 60 animals are involved and the whole test lasts two years."

Cost of macaque's that died unattended may have cause the study to have to start over. This was a Marburg Hemorrhagic Fever study.
"Piece at these institutions vary, but a macaque might cost anywhere between $4,000 and $8,000 depending on its  The audit report criticized the National Lab(Galveston)  for leaving 12 Macaque monkeys infected with Marburg unattended for 15-18 hours. Eight of the monkeys were found dead in their cages. "It is unknown how long these animals might have suffered before dying," the audit report said. "It is unacceptable to leave animals that are expected to die unattended during the time frame death is expected."
The investigation follows an audit by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases finding that "11 critical research problems that 'would affect the validity or integrity of a study and/or the acceptability of a contract research organization,' and 59 major problems that showed a departure from standard operating procedures and good laboratory practices 'that could jeopardize the acceptability of a research organization,'"

George Croix

Cost of chartered air transport on a plane of similar size and amenities (not even counting elaborate security system and host of federal protection specialists and personal attendants and associated ground crews traveling to meet said plane when it reaches destination...) somewhere in the neighborhood of $11,000 bucks/hour.
That's expensive golfing transportation....


Doyle Beard

I doubt this group complaining about the mice dying are concerned about cost. It's the mice.

Jim Forsythe

Just as  Melania Trump’s decision to stay in New York  is costing city taxpayers roughly $1 million a day . The day to day operation of the animals  research is not impacted by what the President or President elect does.

"Entering the Biosafety Level 4 (BSL4) facility at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB), often described as “a submarine inside of a bank vault,”
What kind of work are they doing ? The deaths of research animals could slow down the research.
"Formally dedicated on November 11, 2008, the Galveston National Laboratory provides much needed research space and instrumentation to safely develop therapies, vaccines and diagnostic tests for naturally occurring emerging diseases such as SARS, West Nile encephalitis and avian influenza—and for microbes that might be employed by terrorists. Investigations within the GNL have the potential to spur the emergence of products such as novel diagnostic assays, improved therapeutics and treatment models, and preventive measures such as vaccines."

They have threaten to shut down the research down if they do not get their house in order. They have been fined $33,000 because of this problem. This cost  is because they did not follow standard operating procedure in care of the animals.
"The University of Texas Medical Branch has paid a $33,000 federal fine as part of a settlement over the treatment of research animals.
"The university’s chief research officer, Dr. David Niesel, said in a message to campus employees Monday that a series of changes have been implemented, including additional training for staff and new leadership."
"The investigation follows an audit by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases finding that "11 critical research problems that 'would affect the validity or integrity of a study and/or the acceptability of a contract research organization,' and 59 major problems that showed a departure from standard operating procedures and good laboratory practices 'that could jeopardize the acceptability of a research organization"

George Croix

You figure letting your young son finish the year in his school and leaving a parent with him is comparable?
Wonder what it cost taxpayers to have Mom-in-law living in the casa blanca.....
Besides, The Mayor of NY has plenty of money now that he's not spending any on police trying to prevent crime in neighborhoods where stop and frisk had seen a DRAMATIC decrease in crime under his predecessor.....not sure the victims agree, but.......

The day to day operation of the research facility is impacted by what TAXPAYERS pay. The costs all come back to them......just different users of the funds.....
No matter who they are.

George Croix

It's a government run/financed operation.
Worrying about a government project shutting down is about like worrying about the sky falling....
It COULD happen, but unlikely beyond some huffin-n-puffin and shows of concern...some of it might even be genuine and non-political......[wink]

Jim Forsythe

Trump promised to due away with waste and if found he would  get rid of it... If this is not waste, what is. 
If you remember we were not going to get this facility come to Galveston but UTMB promised a 1st class program.. As I said the cost of failed research projects is not just the money wasted , but  in finishing the research  

I hope Barron is getting a good education. The cost of his education may be the most expensive in the world.
"That source .said also that there is a possibility that Melania and Barron may move to the White House at the end of the school year, but no plans are in place." . The cost to tax payers would be about  120 Million to finish the school year, unless he goes to summer camp at Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School.
Would it be OK for Barron to continue to go to school on NYC for the whole 4 or 8 years at a cost o f365 Million a year if he also goes to summer camp at Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School. The cost for 4 years would be $1.46  Billion , 8 years would almost be 3 Billion .      
CBS News December 22, 2014, 9:35 PM
However, compared to past presidents, Obama has taken relatively few vacation days. At this point in his second term, former President George W. Bush had taken a whopping 405 vacation days. Before him, Bill Clinton took a total of 174 days for himself. Another big vacationer was Ronald Reagan, who took a total of 390 days during his time in office. In comparison, Obama has only taken 161 vacation days to date. 
Even when a President is on vacation they are still working.

George Croix Hawaii and Mawthus' Vinyud.....both a LOT cheaper each time than going to one's own home in Crawford, Texas.....[beam][beam][beam][beam][beam]

Dems sure love to compare numbers.
Even if false equivalents.......

If you tack on perpetual ad-nauseum campaigning and speech making to that vacation time, then there might be some truth to the rumor that our POTUS' White House Sec Svc agent stationed outside the Oval Office has to keep a picture of him to compare so he'll recognize him when he shows up to actually work.....[smile][whistling]

Trump said the kid will finish the school year, then move to the WH.
He didn't say 'Period', or 'Let me be clear', so there's some chance he's telling the truth.
We'll know come Summer......
Maybe should let him get sworn in before deciding what he's actually doing as President.....

But, to answer the based-on-a-dream question 'Would it "be OK' with me? YES, if I was a 'progressive', because it would not be my money would be 'government money', that stuff that 'somebody else' forks over..........but, I'm not, so, no, it would not. be OK....
Remember, I'm not a Pres. Elect Trump fan, I'm a washed up Hillary good-riddancer.......

While dreaming up a hypothetical 3 billion dollar wasted expense to taxpayers over 8 years based on a WAG and thin air, remember that could be paid for over 250 times by just what parts of the 'shovel ready' 800 BILLION buck 'stimulus' were not so ready and for which 'where the bucks went' remains largely unaccounted for.......
The lost $$$$$ on 'green energy' when no market exists to allow unsubsidized and non-phony-figured viability, would, of course, be added to that....
Heck, the kid could do all those DNC nightmare things for about the next 1000 years and still not come close to just two of the failed 'signature initiatives' of our fundamental changer.....
Then, there's the ACA, which ain' on.......

No fun...too easy.......

BUT, it's nice to know that my Democrat friends have suddenly taken an interest in fiscal responsibility...... [beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam]

Merry Christmas

Jim Forsythe

Each President needs to take time off.. The Air Force said it costs $228,288 an hour to fly Air Force One vs $56,800 ( $67,000 in today's dollars)  when Bush was President.
Judicial Watch has compiled a list of vacations, fundraisers  . A rough tally of this incomplete list comes to a minimum of $33,441,728. :

$57,ooo   multiplied by 4  = $228,000 equivalent  dollars is what it would cost bush to fly today .multiply $20 million times 4 gives   equivalent  today dollars and $80 million is what the Crawford trips would cost today.  Worth every penny as he  earned his time off
 "During Bush’s two terms, the cost of operating Air Force One ranged from $56,800 to $68,000 an hour. Bush used Air Force One 77 times to go to his ranch in Crawford, TX. Using the low end cost of $56,800, Media Matters calculated that each trip to Crawford cost taxpayers $259,687 each time, and $20 million total for Bush’s ranch flights."

George Croix

Media Matters???

C'mon...even Media Matters doesn't pay any attention to their own cra_ they put out.....[beam]

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