Animal Welfare

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COLUMBIA - An animal rights group said more than two dozen lab animals died in MU research facilities over the past two years as the university failed to provide proper care.

The Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! (SAEN) organization is calling for an independent investigation.

"At the conclusion of their investigation, we believe that any of their staff involved with the abuse and negligence of animals should be terminated," SAEN executive director Michael Budkie said.

MU spokesperson Christian Basi said the university has complied with all laws and regulations and that every death has been reported.

"If we do have instances where we have a mistake that's being made that compromises the care of the animal, it's reported to the national government," he said. 

KOMU received Health and Human Services documents addressing the animal deaths highlighting six cases from February 2016 to December 2017. The documents show five mice died of dehydration; 16 died after surgical experiments and 17 died in cages with a restricted air supply. 

The documents show the Health and Human Services' Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare closed the investigations and we're satisfied that proper protocol was followed by the university. 

Basi said researchers and veterinarians are both present when animals are subjected to testing. He said that's to ensure proper care is given towards the animals by professional veterinarians who know how to handle them with care.

Animal research approval is also a rigorous process, Basi said. A committee must approve all animal testing before any experiments take place and if anything goes wrong, veterinarians are to report any incidents to the oversight committee.

Budkie said the university needs to set up a database to track the welfare of its animals.

"If you can't follow the federal regulations and keep the animals alive then you shouldn't be able to work with animals," he said.

Basi say the university believes animal testing is warranted and takes every precaution to ensure the animals are safe.

"We take the responsibility of our research mission very seriously and without the research, that includes animals, we would not have many of the answers to the disease treatments that we do today," Basi said.