An animal-rights group is asking the federal government to fine Washington State University over the deaths of two grizzly bears and the overdosing of three bighorn sheep.
PULLMAN — An animal-rights group has filed a complaint against Washington State University, asking the federal government to fine the school over the deaths of two grizzly bears and the overdosing of three bighorn sheep.
The group called Stop Animal Exploitation Now asked the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to fine the university $10,000 for each infraction cited in an April 26 inspection report by the service.
The Lewiston Tribune says that report highlighted an incident last March in which three bighorn sheep were given dexamethasone at 50 times the approved dosage for three consecutive days. The report also cited a 2010 incident in which two grizzly bears had to be euthanized after nearly starving to death when they failed to go into hibernation.
“I have a feeling I have only seen the tip of the iceberg,” said Michael Budkie, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now. “What I saw in the USDA report clearly sent off warning signals and red flags.”
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The Cincinnati-based group works to end experimentation on animals and routinely files complaints against universities and animal research facilities.
Charlie Powell, spokesman for the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine, said the three bighorn sheep cited in the report were part of a study seeking a vaccine for pneumonia that has ravaged wild bighorn sheep herds in Idaho, Washington and other western states for decades.
An approved dose of dexamethasone was given to the animals to suppress their immune systems in the hopes it would give an experimental vaccine a chance to work.
When it did not, Powell said a graduate student acting on his own gave the animals the much larger dose of the drug. That also failed to work and the sheep developed pneumonia. They were later euthanized.
Powell said WSU would use the incident as a teachable moment.
“This is an uncommon error but it’s an opportunity for us to just condition graduate students that if you’ve seen it approved elsewhere it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s approved here,” Powell said.
The death of the two grizzly bears was highlighted in an internal investigation made public in March. It indicated the two young grizzly bears were placed in individual culvert traps for hibernation.
The traps were stored at a site away from the Grizzly Bear Research Center and caretakers did not immediately notice the bears did not go into hibernation. By the time it was discovered, the bears could not be saved.
The university issued a statement Thursday from Kim Kidwell, acting dean of the College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Resource Sciences, saying the university conducted its own review of bear center operations and addressed “specific concerns and addressed them before USDA inspections.”