While University of South Florida consider the matter closed, an animal rights group is pushing both university police and federal officials to investigate the death of a rhesus monkey during a research study.
“This is clearly a very serious situation, and I would expect that the USDA will take substantial action,” Michael Budkie, founder of Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN), told The Tampa Tribune. “They should not be able to get away with this.”
The Ohio-based group filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in September, saying there were two separate cases of research monkeys being denied water during a study titled “Obesity, Diabetes, Aging and Their Complications."
In addition, Lt. Chris Daniel of the University Police tells WUSF his department was made aware of the incidents last week, and are currently conducting a review of the circumstances to determine if a crime was committed.
Even though USF self-reported the violations to the National Institutes of Health in August 2013 and January 2014, SAEN is asking the government to fine USF up to $10,000 for each infraction.
According to the Tribune, in their notice to the NIH, USF admitted that 27 primates were denied water in April 2013 for 14 hours. In addition, water was withheld from an unknown number of primates for three nights in December 2013.
University protocols do not allow taking water from the monkeys, but USF student newspaper The Oracle said the research team believed that such restrictions "would enhance urine volume and concentration which was being analyzed for measures of glucose."
Instead, four primates developed ketosis, "a condition in which the body metabolizes fat instead of glucose, making the blood more acidic and damaging the liver and kidneys."
The four were given treatment by a veterinarian - treatment that was not reported as required - and one had to be euthanized.
The University has since closed the primary researcher's projects and revoked the animal research privileges of all the researchers involved. USF has not identified the primary researcher, releasing a statement saying, "After USF self-reported the incident, federal authorities accepted the corrective steps put in place by the university and consider the matter closed. USF no longer conducts any primate research projects."
The statement goes on to say: "As an institution, USF believes in the respectful and ethical treatment of animals in research projects. The university has a vigorous review and training process. USF will continue to abide by all state and federal laws and guidelines.”
In its letters to the NIH, university officials said no federal funds were used in the "noncompliant activities" related to the study and all costs were paid from a non-federal source.
More than 4,200 people signed a now-closed petition at change.org urging USF to "stop animal experimentation," while another animal rights organization, Florida Voices for Animals, plans to protest at USF this Saturday.