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Monkeys not abused in Pitt labs, feds say

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A capuchin monkey. (Reuters)

The University of Pittsburgh announced Wednesday it has been cleared of wrongdoing by a federal agency investigating allegations of animal abuse in its laboratories.

However, details of the allegations are murky.

During the week of Feb. 27, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service conducted a four-day inspection of Pitt’s animal research laboratories, Pitt spokesman Joe Miksch said in a news release.

Miksch said allegations and a video provided to the USDA prompted the investigation.

“We are not privy to the identity of the complainant and do not have the video,” he wrote in an email to the Trib.

A USDA spokeswoman said the complaint came from the nonprofit organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

An attached two-page USDA report dated March 2 stated that investigators inspected animals in the lab. The animals included five types of monkeys: squirrel, rhesus, capuchins, cyno and marmoset.

Kathy Guillermo, senior vice president in charge of laboratory investigations for PETA, said in a statement that the USDA inspection report is not comprehensive. She did not specify what the allegations entailed.

“No experiment, no matter how painful, scientifically flawed or redundant is prohibited,” she said. “So we’re not impressed.”

Miksch said Pitt is committed to high standards of care for all its research animals.

“This inspection was unannounced and was conducted by three veterinary medical officers who visited multiple university facilities and interviewed a number of the university’s veterinarians, animal care staff members and researchers,” he said in the release. “The inspectors did not identify or corroborate any instances of noncompliance with animal welfare regulations, as documented in an inspection report provided to the university on March 3.”

The USDA report stated that Pitt’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee was present for the inspection.

“Educational use of animals at the University of Pittsburgh complies with all applicable laws and voluntary accreditation standards,” Pitt’s news release said. “The programs and facilities at the university are USDA registered and covered under an Animal Welfare Assurance with the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare of the Public Health Service.”

Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991 or [email protected].

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