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Research Animal Guidelines Spark Outcry From Labs

July 16, 1989|JUDITH HAVEMANN | The Washington Post

Mice and rats, by far the most commonly used animals in biomedical research, are not covered by the rules. Newkirk is among 1,017 individuals or groups who complained of the department's failure to include rodents.

"All animals who are used must be covered," she said. "It doesn't matter to the animals whether their blood is warm or cold, whether they are big or small, ugly or attractive. They all are entitled to minimal protection."

'Regulatory Overreach

The American Council on Education, a group of research universities, called the rules a "classic example of regulatory overreach."

Michael Horowitz, counsel for the group, wrote that the regulations "contain precise specifications for such micromanagement details as animal socialization; daily petting in certain circumstances; play room; exercise periods and individualized supervision and caging (including mandatory cage specifications and toys appropriate for particular species)."

Thomas E. Hamm Jr., director of Stanford's division of laboratory animal medicine, said the regulations could eat up $1 billion to $2 billion of the $10 billion to $14 billion in total budget for American biomedical research.

"We are providing the best animal care possible based on current data," Hamm said. "We would have to throw away our current cages and spend half a million dollars on new caging alone that will not benefit dogs one iota.

'It Would Be Inhumane'

"The average lay person can see that (the idea of) grouping animals together was written by people who have never worked with groups of animals," he said. "Animals establish pecking orders. They are fighting constantly. Any time one becomes ill or weak, the rest gang up on him. It would be inhumane to group them together."

Stevens, a primary lobbyist for the animal-welfare community, called it perfectly possible to provide for both the exercise of dogs and the psychological well-being of primates without great expense. "Usually primate cages are two tiers high. You can take the ceiling out of one and the floor of another. This can be done right in the shop of most institutions.

"Primates have to be compatible," Stevens said. "Not every primate likes every other primate, but the vast majority of primates very much like to have a cage mate. They groom one another and huddle together. They like to spend a lot of time chewing on branches. These are the kinds of things we want to see happening."

'Not Even a Question'

As for dog exercise, she said: "It is not something that requires scientific proof. Everybody knows dogs don't want to sit in cages for years and years. It's not even a question."

Stevens said that to comply with the rules, an institution could provide large pens or kennel runways, or when people "clean the cages they can simply lift the dog out on the floor of the room or in a separate exercise area in the corridor and let him run around while the cage is cleaned."

"We can't make them exercise," Stanford's Hamm said. "When we let them out of the cages during cleaning, they lie down in the corner and go to sleep."

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