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‘Duke must be punished’: Animal rights groups file federal complaints over welfare concerns

Animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals filed a federal complaint against Duke alleging mistreatment of animals, per an Aug. 17 press release.

PETA filed the complaint with the National Institutes of Health, claiming that a Duke researcher’s actions “may have led to the loss of two of the four pups,” and pigs went unfed for a weekend, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection report. 

Chris Simmons, Duke’s interim vice president for public affairs and government relations, declined to comment.

PETA’s complaint comes after Ohio-based nonprofit Stop Animal Exploitation Now obtained documents showing that Duke received a “non-critical” violation during a routine unannounced lab inspection conducted by the USDA. SAEN has also filed a complaint against Duke with the USDA.

The July 19 USDA inspection report says three pigs were not fed over a weekend due to a “significant scheduling error.” 

Additionally, a researcher trying to reach the on-call veterinarian during a difficult dog birth did not follow the pre-approved communication policy. This misstep “prohibited the [Duke Division of Laboratory Animal Resources] veterinarian’s ability to provide appropriate veterinary medical care,” possibly leading to the loss of two pups. 

“There is simply no excuse for the deaths of these puppies without veterinary intervention. Duke  must be punished,” SAEN executive director Michael Budkie wrote in a statement to The Chronicle. 

In both cases, researchers developed a corrective action plan to prevent future incidents.

PETA is calling for the NIH to stop funding Duke research, according to a statement from Alka Chandna, PETA vice president of laboratory investigations cases. 

The NIH is the University’s largest research funder as of fiscal year 2019, according to Duke’s office of government relations. It contributed over $423 million in the 2022 fiscal year, according to NIH data.

“According to federal reports, 1,433 animals in Duke’s laboratories were used in painful experiments and of these, 366 weren’t given adequate pain relief,” Chandna wrote in the statement. “The university would do well to modernize its research program by leaving cruel and archaic experiments on animals behind and using only sophisticated, human-relevant research methods instead.”

Duke isn’t the only Triangle university under scrutiny for how it treats animals. Earlier this year, PETA and SAEN filed federal complaints against North Carolina State University after a USDA report found critical violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

Nadia Bey profile
Nadia Bey | Digital Strategy Director

Nadia Bey, Trinity '23, was managing editor for The Chronicle's 117th volume and digital strategy director for Volume 118.


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