FAYETTEVILLE — A federal welfare inspection report noted burn injuries to hamsters used for research at the University of Arkansas.
“On three separate occasions, multiple hamsters have been burned, which resulted in tissue damage, ranging from hairloss and redness to sloughing of an entire ear,” states the U.S. Department of Agriculture report, citing the burns as one of two “critical” issues or “non-compliant items” required to be corrected “from this day forward.”
Hamsters were anesthetized and placed on a heating pad for an imaging study, according to the report that lists an inspection date of Sept. 18. Six hamsters suffered injuries, including two injured on separate occasions, the report states, noting that a short-circuiting heating element was fixed at one point but that additional burn injuries took place. Injuries were observed in April and June, according to the report.
The second “critical” issue with the same research protocol involved a hamster with “multiple leg fractures,” an injury caused by the wire cage structure where it was housed, the report states. The animal was euthanized.
UA spokesman Steve Voorhies said the injuries were first documented by the university. He said the research protocol was adjusted in consultation with the university’s attending veterinarian before the study concluded earlier this year.
Last year, UA voluntarily suspended seven animal research protocols “related to documentation and procedural deviations/variations,” Voorhies said in an email. He said the university in December hired a new director of research compliance, Jason Ramage, who reports to Daniel Sui, UA’s new top research officer.
“Since joining the university earlier this month, I’ve made it clear that the ethical and humane treatment of animals is a priority. We should have zero tolerance for anything less,” Sui said in a statement.
Michael Budkie, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now, on Wednesday released a complaint letter from the organization to the USDA calling for an investigation and fines to be levied on the university for violating the federal Animal Welfare Act.
Tasgola Bruner, a media manager for animal-rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, in a statement Thursday said the report “paints a damning picture of a school that seems unable to provide vulnerable animals with even minimal protections” and called for a moratorium on animal experiments at UA.