STILLWATER — Officials who enforce the federal Animal Welfare Act will determine if Oklahoma State University will be investigated for noncompliance, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.
In a complaint filed Friday, the group Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! alleges OSU has committed multiple violations, including actions that resulted in the deaths of more than 80 animals. SAEN called for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate and impose a “significant fine.”
“We will be looking into this to determine whether there were any Animal Welfare Act noncompliances that occurred,” said Tanya Espinosa with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
“To be clear, this is not an investigation. We are just looking into it at this point. We may, at some point open an investigation if warranted,” Espinosa said.
In the complaint, Michael Budkie, executive director of SAEN, cites unapproved surgical procedures on three cows and the permanent suspension of animal use privileges for an OSU researcher who used unapproved euthanasia methods.
Budkie also cites the deaths of 76 out of 80 African pouched rats during shipment, but noted it is “unclear if the responsibility should be placed on Oklahoma State University, or on Delta Airlines, the company responsible for the shipping.”
“SAEN stated that it learned of the incidents from OSU’s filings with the appropriate federal agencies,” OSU spokeman Gary Shutt said. “Not mentioned is the fact those agencies were satisfied with OSU’s response and the matters were closed.”
The university “is committed to the humane care and use of all animals,” Shutt said. “Many of the advances in the prevention and treatment of animal and human diseases are the direct result of animal research.”
The Animal Welfare Act requires entities licensed or registered with USDA to provide animals with adequate care and treatment in the areas of housing, handling, sanitation, nutrition, water, veterinary care and protection from extreme weather and temperatures.
To ensure the standards are being met, inspectors from USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service conduct routine inspections.
A report following a Sept. 13, 2013, inspection of OSU facilities listed these violations: 1) numerous expired medications and medical supplies in the equine research park, 2) failure to inform attending veterinarian of hair loss on the forehead and around the eyes of a fawn and 3) no elevated resting surfaces for cats.
The report also noted corrective measures had been implemented after 15 voles died in July 2013 for lack of water due to a communication failure between employees.
A Dec. 11, 2013, inspection report showed no instances of noncompliance.