Dartmouth College faces animal abuse complaints after the deaths of 13 voles. Voles are related to mice, with stouter bodies and shorter, hairy tails. (Juha Soininen/FREEIMAGES.COM)
Dartmouth defends against animal abuse complaint
HANOVER — An animal rights group has filed a federal complaint accusing Dartmouth College of violating the Animal Welfare Act after the deaths of 13 voles.
The complaint was filed Monday by the group Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! with the U.S. Department of Agriculture after the college self-reported the lab animals’ deaths in February and March of 2016.
In an emailed statement, Dartmouth said the animals died in two incidents — one batch from dehydration after they contracted diabetes unbeknownst to researchers, and in another case from what Dartmouth officials called an “unfortunate oversight.”
“Dartmouth is dedicated to providing the highest standards of care for all animals used in our research laboratory, and our rapid self-reporting reflects our commitment to those practices,” Dartmouth College spokesman Diana Lawrence said in an email Wednesday. She said the animals had the required water when checked, but that the voles’ condition caused them to drink more than unusual.
“As part of our investigation of the incident in order to prevent a future occurrence, the attending veterinarian had the animals tested and discovered an unknown prevalence of diabetes in the colony, which explained the unexpected and excessive water consumption,” said Lawrence. “Following that discovery, our animal care staff were quickly notified to be aware of water bottles that show excessive consumption and to immediately change any water bottle that is less than half full.”
She went on to say that any of the vole cages containing animals that excessively consumed water were marked as such.
“The second incident was an unfortunate oversight,” she wrote, “which we addressed through mandatory retraining for all animal care staff on all animal care protocols. A new requirement was also implemented that mandates a final daily walk-through by animal care staff to double check that all cages have adequate food and water. The director of compliance in the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare concurred with the actions taken by Dartmouth in both instances.”
Michael A. Budkie, the animal rights group’s executive director, said Wednesday that Dartmouth College should be fined for the animal deaths.
Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! is seeking the maximum penalty for Dartmouth, which is $10,000 per infraction, which could be up to two or three infractions for each animal, he said.
“It’s a violation of the law. It’s clearly an abuse of the animals. We also believe the public has a right to know what happens in research facilities,” Budkie said.
The majority of animal research is funded by federal dollars, he said, adding that the federal government spends $14 billion annually funding this type of research.
Budkie added he would like to see the college cease using all amimals in its research labs, and said it is an outdated form of research.
“If Dartmouth staff can’t be trusted to make sure animals have sufficient water to stay alive, then why should we believe they can do the science,” Budkie said.