PRESS RELEASE

USGS Wildlife Labs Criticized Over Animal Care 

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For Immediate Release:  Friday, March 19, 2021
Contact:  Peter Jenkins (202) 265-4189; Kirsten Stade kstade@peer.org

USGS Wildlife Labs Criticized Over Animal Care

 

Call for Independent Accreditation of All USGS Live Animal Facilities

Washington, DC — Wildlife disease laboratories run by the U.S. Geological Survey should meet recognized animal care standards, according to a letter sent today by six humane and conservation groups. The letter urged the Department of Interior to obtain independent animal care accreditation for its three major USGS wildlife disease laboratories: The National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) in Madison, Wisconsin; Leetown Science Center in Kearneysville, West Virginia; and the Western Fisheries Research Center in Seattle, Washington.

The groups contend that USGS’s self-regulating status has allowed animal care deficiencies and even breaches of biosecurity to be minimized or glossed over.

The NWHC in particular provides vital information to Federal agency decision-makers on emerging diseases of wildlife, domestic animals, and humans. These have included the current SARS-CoV-2 pathogen – which also can infect some captive wildlife species – as well as other serious zoonotic diseases such as avian influenza, West Nile virus, and monkeypox.

“In the face of the current zoonotic pandemic, our groups are all supporting vastly stronger response and prevention efforts, which would include additional funding and responsibilities especially for the NWHC lab,” said Peter Jenkins, Senior Counsel at Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. “In doing so, we are very mindful to not also enable any future animal care or biosafety lapses.”

Numerous other Federal agencies with live animal laboratories have voluntarily ensured the integrity of their programs by obtaining inspection and accreditation by independent expert organizations such as the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International and the American Biological Safety Association. Other federal agencies subjecting themselves to independent accreditation include the Centers for Disease Control, Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration, and Defense Department. However, none of the USGS labs have done so.

The groups signing the letter are: Bonobo Conservation Initiative, Center for Biological Diversity, Endangered Species Coalition, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

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Read the NGO letter

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See more background on the lab whistleblower