On March 21, reports from the University of Michigan Research and Animal Care and Use offices found that 11,548 zebrafish were poisoned by bleach, 53 mice died of dehydration, while others were given gastrointestinal cancer and a mutant rabbit went missing from University animal testing laboratories between March 2018 and September 2018.
The reports were legally required by the federal Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare and eventually obtained by animal advocacy group Stop Animal Exploitation Now, which has now requested an independent investigation of the matter.
In a letter to University President Mark Schlissel and the Board of Regents, SAEN Executive Director Michael Budkie urged University administration to punish the staff involved in these incidents.
“This is a description of multiple incidents of clear and unadulterated negligence that must be punished,” Budkie wrote. “The staff involved in these incidents should never be allowed to work with animals again.”
LSA freshman Josh Goettner works with mice in a lab at the North Campus Research Complex through the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program. Goettner condemned the animal life negligence in these labs, but said he maintains his support of animal testing for its potential benefits in improving human care.
“I didn’t really know all this was going on in other labs,” Goettner said. “After finding out about the incident, I think that accidents that kill animals on such large scales should not be allowed to happen. However, I fully support animal testing just because I value human lives so much more. If all goes well, my research project will help tens of thousands of people with type 2 diabetes, and to me that’s worth some mice.”
LSA freshman Sydney Musser also works in a UROP lab in the Department of Human Genetics and said she had to go through extensive training consisting of online courses, in-person training classes and a tour of the mouse room in order to be authorized to work with the mice in her lab.
“This was a long process that I had to go through and I believe Michigan does a good job of making sure those wanting to work with mice or other animals in research are qualified,” Musser said. “I also learned about how much the animal husbandry monitors the animals and how communication between the animal husbandry and the lab is extremely important. Because of this, I can understand how mistakes could happen if there is a miscommunication between the animal husbandry and the laboratory staff. It is unfortunate that mistakes led to the deaths of so many animals.”
In an email to The Daily, University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald wrote the University took all necessary steps to self-report and correct these isolated incidents, and corrective action plans were put into place to prevent any similar incidents from occurring in the future.
“The University has many strong policies and controls in place to monitor all projects involving the use of animals,” Fitzgerald wrote.
Fitzgerald wrote the University will continue to refine their practices to maintain their commitment to achieve and exceed national and professional standards in animal care and use.
“The University of Michigan recognizes that working with animals to advance human and animal health is a privilege that requires constant diligence and a commitment to the highest standards of animal welfare in all aspects of our research and teaching,” Fitzgerald wrote. “We deeply regret the loss of these animals, most of which were zebrafish.”