USDA inspectors have cited Seattle Children’s Research Institute for two incidents where pigs and mice experienced “unnecessary pain and distress” during experiments.

Share story

Animals used in experiments at Seattle Children’s Research Institute were denied proper anesthesia and pain treatment, according to inspection reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The institute, which is part of Seattle Children’s Hospital, was cited twice by the agency for allowing animals to experience unnecessary “pain and distress.”

In one set of experiments, conducted in late 2013, six pigs struggled while undergoing surgical procedures, indicating that they were in pain and were not properly anesthetized. The lapse may have contributed to the animals’ deaths, the report says.

The inspector also noted a thick layer of dust on surgical lights above an operating table, which could have exposed animals to “infectious or other harmful materials.”

The second incident, in 2014, involved spiny mice, a species commonly used in research. Several of the animals had wounds or lesions that should have been treated with a painkilling gel, the report says. But researchers didn’t administer the required medication because it might have interfered with efforts to measure inflammatory response.

The documents were released this week as part of a USDA complaint filed by the animal rights group Stop Animal Exploitation Now.

In an email, Seattle Children’s spokeswoman Alyse Bernal said the institute voluntarily reported problems with the pig experiments to the USDA and stopped the experiment. The spiny mouse project was also halted.

“The institute worked to determine the cause of these incidents to ensure they do not happen again in future studies,” Bernal wrote. “Seattle Children’s Research Institute is committed to upholding the highest standards for animal research.”

The institute, housed in multiple buildings between downtown Seattle and South Lake Union, conducts research on childhood cancers, brain science, genetics and infectious diseases. According to its most recent annual report to the USDA, the institute used 445 animals — mostly spiny mice and pigs — in research projects in 2014.

The problematic pig experiment was aimed at finding treatments for newborns with lung failure, while the spiny mouse project cited by the USDA focused on wound healing.