Sources: (nov/dec 2012) Dallas Observer, Dallasnews.com, UTsouthwestern.edu
Donna Pulkrabek says she was pushed out of her job at UT Southwestern in May after reporting mistreatment of laboratory animals even though, as manager of the school’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), that was her job. Says the lawsuit, which you can read here, UTSW fired Pulkrabek after she began telling higher-ups that the school was “grossly non-compliant with the federal requirements.”
According to a lawsuit filed by Pulkrabek, she had raised concerns of animal mistreatment — mice dying in freezers or in overheated rooms, among other things, her attorney explained — to the Office of Institutional Compliance, then to the IACUC, then to the school’s dean of basic research. At every level, she says her concerns were ignored.
It wasn’t until she filed a formal complaint with the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW), part of the National Institutes of Health, that she says she got the attention of the administration. Within a week, she was placed on administrative leave and ultimately fired.
Now, a second UT Southwestern employee (who is represented by the same attorney as Pulkrabek) is claiming retaliation for reporting animal abuse. Patrick Thobe, who was hired in 2007 to oversee the treatment of UT Southwestern lab animals, says in a lawsuit that he was fired in September for reporting “UT Southwestern’s long and ugly history of mistreatment of animals.” Test animals include dogs, goats, cats, mice, frogs, rabbits, sheep, pigs, etc.
The facts of his case parallel those of Pulkrabek’s: Reports to OIC, IACUC and a dean were ignored. A report to OLAW was met with retaliation. His lawsuit does, at least, provide a very detailed list of how animals were allegedly mistreated.
1. Live test animals were found in the carcass freezer. The concern with this situation, obviously, would be that live animals would be permitted to freeze to death.
2. Test animals received surgery without pain killers. These surgeries included, but were not limited to, arterial and venal catheterizations, tracheotomies and ovaryectomies.
3. Test animals were left in cages in excessive heat where they died of heat exhaustion.
4. Test animals received unauthorized surgeries. Unauthorized surgeries means that they were not approved by the IACUC Committee.
6. Test animals were given a lethal dose of radiation without authorization of the IACUC.
7. The death of a frog colony of approximately 40-50 was not reported.
8. Six incidents of unauthorized laboratory housing. The concern was the test animals were in an unauthorized location where they may not receive food or water or daily health checks.
9. Test animals received unauthorized intrasplenic injections of tumor cells.
10. Test animals were subjected to unauthorized circadian rhythm experiments.
11. Test animals were injected with femoral arterial dye without the authorization from IACUC.
12. Test animals were provided an expired anesthetic. One year past expiration. The concern is that expired anesthetics won’t put animals to sleep.
13. Test animals died due to complications of intubations. The intubations were not carried out properly causing unnecessary death to the test animals.
The lawsuit, which also names the UT System Medical Foundation and the Board of Regents of the University of Texas System as defendants, alleges UTSW violated the Texas Whistleblower Act. Messages have been left for UTSW’s public information office.
UT Southwestern spokesman Michael Berman responded with the following statement:
“UT Southwestern does not comment on pending litigation, but we adhere to the highest standards in the care and use of animals in research. UT Southwestern fully complies with all applicable regulations and monitoring requirements, and its animal research program is registered with, and accredited by, all appropriate regulatory and accrediting entities.”