NEW ORLEANS — A Louisiana university has agreed to pay $100,000 to settle six complaints about its primate lab.
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette does not admit any wrongdoing at its New Iberia Research Center under the settlement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Lab workers broke one monkey’s arm in 2013 but didn’t check it for five days, and another monkey died that year from a brain hemorrhage after injuring its hand between its cage and another structure, according to a complaint in March 2015 from USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
The research center had reported most of the incidents to the agency, and they “occurred as part of routine housing and care of nonhuman primates,” said a statement emailed by university spokeswoman Kathleen Thames.
Michael Budkie, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now, said he believes the fine is the fifth largest APHIS has ever levied against an animal laboratory. The largest was $3.5 million last year against a California facility owned by Dallas-based Santa Cruz Biotechnology Inc., he said.
It is hard to tell whether $100,000 was the maximum possible against the New Iberia lab, he said.
“Folks at USDA have told me the maximum is $10,000 per infraction per animal” and the complaint doesn’t make clear how many animals were involved in several complaints, he said.
The agreement with ULL became public Friday on the USDA website, although it was signed May 8, said Budkie, who emailed a copy to The Associated Press.
The university paid $60,000 to settle previous complaints that the lab violated the Animal Welfare Act, including nearly $38,600 paid in 2013 after three monkeys died, Budkie has said. It also paid $18,000 in 2010 to settle allegations that included improper animal handling, and $2,000 in 2007, after 55 rhesus monkeys escaped.
The most recent complaint, dealt with in the current settlement, was from June 2014, when USDA said an experiment was approved without the lead researcher’s written assurance that it did not unnecessarily duplicate earlier work.
The macaque whose arm was broken was in a “squeeze restraint” — a cage with one panel that can be moved inward to immobilize a monkey for transport or medical procedures, according to the complaint.
It said that although the adult “resisted by holding her right arm against the cage and curling her body over her infant’s,” hiding her arms and legs from view, workers continued to move the panel inward in March 2013. The monkey’s arm was trapped between the side of the cage and the squeeze mechanism, the agency said.
The failure to check her arm for five days was listed as a separate complaint.
The lab also was accused of failing to clean African green monkeys’ perches of dirt and debris in September 2012, and housing capuchin monkeys in unsecure cages so that five got out by removing the “latch clips” on their doors in January 2013.