Researchers at the University of Notre Dame violated federal animal welfare laws last year by mistreating mice during lab studies, according to documents the school filed with a federal agency.
The university self-reported the violations to the federal Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare and suspended the lab’s operations last August because of “serious deviation” from animal treatment guidelines, the documents say.
The documents, which are letters and reports university officials sent to the federal agency, were obtained by the animal advocacy group Stop Animal Exploitation Now through a Freedom of Information Act request to the federal agency. The group released the documents to news media outlets, the South Bend Tribune reported Wednesday.
Notre Dame’s vice president of research, Robert Bernhard, detailed the violations of animal welfare policy in an August 2019 letter sent to the federal agency.
On Aug. 9, 2019, veterinary staff at the Freimann Life Sciences Center saw two mice in a lab that had missing limbs and another pair with their “bowels exteriorized” after surgery, with sutures and clips missing. Ten mice had tumors larger than the allowable two centimeters.
All the mice were euthanized after they “likely experienced unrelieved pain or distress,” Bernhard’s letter says.
University researchers had injected the mice with breast cancer cells to study tumors.
An internal investigation found that lenient oversight and lack of communication contributed to the violations, according to a letter the university later sent to the federal agency.
The university’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, which oversees animal research, concluded that one person was responsible for a “significant number” of the violations, which also included intentionally hitting a mouse on a table. That person was removed from working with animals but remains in the lab, according to the documents.
The animal advocacy group has requested the university fire those involved in the study and its federal grant money to return, Executive Director Michael Budkie said.
A university spokesman told the South Bend Tribune that officials promptly addressed the violations when they were informed of them and followed all reporting protocols.