OHSU Responds to Inaccurate Claims by an Ohio Based Animal Rights Group and Local Activists

10/22/10  Portland, Ore.

Animal rights groups in Ohio and Oregon have joined forces to make inaccurate claims about the OHSU Oregon National Primate Research Center. In the spirit of full transparency OHSU has posted the document which is the basis of these misleading claims. We also encourage local reporters to contact OHSU with any questions they may have to clear up any confusion caused by these accusations.

In separate press releases issued over the past few days, Ohio-based Stop Animal Exploitation Now and the Portland Animal Defense League have made claims about 259 animals in OHSU’s care. However, the document from which these statements are based shows the claims to be untrue.

The document in question is the Annual Report of Research Facility, which OHSU files annually with the USDA. The USDA is one of several organizations that ensure that animals at OHSU and other research facilities are treated well.

This week’s activist claims focus on exemptions to the Animal Welfare Act that are noted in the 2009 version of this report. As explained in the document, the exemptions were granted in the name of animal comfort or out of necessity for the research being conducted. The two animal rights groups have said that these exemptions illustrate abuse. However, a review of the document will reveal the following reasons for exemptions.

•    A temporary exemption for cage washing methods to reduce stress for a small group of animals.
•    A temporary screen was placed between certain animals to prevent threatening behavior, which causes stress.
•    Infant monkeys were placed in a slightly smaller group housing to better encourage socialization.
•    This same exemption also occurred in adult monkeys to encourage socialization.
•    In a small number of cases animals may have been housed without a partner for a short time when unable to see another monkey across the room. (USDA requires that animals see other monkeys or live with other monkeys)
•    The delay of a cage washing for one day because it would have interfered with the research. (An example where this would be required: A sleep study where washing cages would wake animals)
•    A temporary exemption: The study animals would not receive fruit or vegetables for a short period because they were receiving these vitamins in another form. Without this exemption, the diet study could not have been done.
•    A diet study, which required that animals temporarily receive a smaller portion of food.
•    A temporary change in feeding schedules so animals could be trained (with food as a reward). The animals also received fruit daily during this period.
•    A research protocol involving hysterectomies where there were special circumstances. For instance, in one case the animals had been exposed to a virus as part of the research and could not then be housed with other animals for safety reasons.
•    A small group of animals involved in blood vessel research had to be monitored in a chair for a number of hours. The animals were monitored and cared for by staff to ensure that the animals were not uncomfortable.

SAEN’s press release also makes claims about 4 primate deaths that occurred over a several year period. The forms from which these claims stem are published at ONPRC’s Web site and on the USDA Web site. SAEN does not disclose that these incidents were all self reported by OHSU and have already been covered widely in the media in previous years.

Unfortunately, Stop Animal Exploitation Now has made a series of inaccurate claims about OHSU’s primate center in the past:
•    Based on another OHSU record received through a records request, the group claimed that 400 infant monkeys had died when in fact the animals were alive. The group failed to notice that the animals were no longer being counted as infants on the document because they had aged.
•    The group inaccurately claimed that OHSU was lying about the number of animals in its care by juxtaposing two reports to two separate federal agencies. One report listed all animals at OHSU vs. animals involved in research (A large number of animals at the primate center live outdoors in one-acre breeding habitats meaning that they are not used for research)

The other group behind these latest claims is the Portland Animal Defense League, which has targeted OHSU researchers and families at their homes repeatedly and held loud protests outside of OHSU Hospital’s Emergency Room. The group also blocked employee and visitor traffic into the center for six hours on June 28, 2010.

“The most disturbing thing about these inaccuracies is that they result in acts of violence and threats against OHSU health researchers,” said Nancy Haigwood, Ph.D., director of the Oregon National Primate Research Center. “This is a very serious issue. Our families have been targeted. Masked people have shown up at our doors countless times. We have had our homes and cars vandalized and much of the time those menacing acts come after false claims like the ones issued this week.”

Contact OHSU’s press office for additional information about the most recent claims or previous claims about ONPRC’s primate center.