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The "extreme negligence" of University of Utah staff led to the injury and death of a laboratory monkey last year, an Ohio-based animal rights group said Thursday.
A U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection report, completed in April, found that a crab-eating macaque was burned and subsequently killed during a study at the U.
"The carelessness demonstrated by those involved in this botched procedure deserves the maximum penalty allowable by the USDA," said Stacey Ellison, a research analyst for Stop Animal Exploitation Now, which released the USDA report Thursday.
Last August, the macaque was anesthetized for a study procedure and, while under anesthesia, its body temperature dropped, according to the report.
A veterinarian directed a member of the staff to use a heater to increase the monkey's body temperature, the report states. But the heater was inappropriately placed, burning and subsequently killing the animal.
"The research facility acted promptly to address this incident by conducting a thorough investigation, self-reporting the incident and swiftly implementing appropriate corrective actions to prevent future occurrences," the report states.
A USDA representative said there are no open investigations into the U.
But Ellison said her organization expects action to be taken against the school now that her group is involved.
She said the efforts of Stop Animal Exploitation Now have led to the prosecution of 40 research labs by the USDA.
"This should very well lead to the university being fined for the violations they were cited for in the inspection report," she said.
In a news release, U. spokeswoman Suzanne Winchester said the university does not anticipate that the USDA will take further action on the incident.
She said the procedure involved an MRI of the macaque as part of a study of a genetic brain disorder.
Winchester said there was no negligence, and university staff "worked diligently to provide care and comfort to the animal."
"Unfortunately, in this circumstance, the warming device was placed too close to the animal in an effort to provide warmth," she said.
The U. has come under fire in the past for its use and treatment of research animals.
In 2009, Virginia-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals filed complaints after using hidden cameras to record alleged animal mistreatment in university laboratories.
The USDA issued a formal warning to the U., referring to "repeated failure" of researchers to adequately oversee lab experiments.
The allegations brought to light the practice of U. researchers using animals from nearby shelters for lab experiments, which resulted in a change to state law.
An official inspection by the USDA the following year identified some minor infractions, but largely concluded that U. laboratories were operating ethically and in compliance with federal regulations.