NSU severs ties with primate company under investigation

NSU once employed the services of Primate Products, a Miami-based company that provides primates to research labs and universities for research. However, in early September, the company was reported on NBC Miami news for possible animal neglect and abuse of its primates.

The report sparked media and animal rights activist investigations. Further speculation of wrong-doing was leaked along with photos of monkeys with gashes on their heads.

Don Anthony from Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, said, “A letter was sent over to NSU, urging them to stop doing business with Primate Products and notification was received that NSU will no longer be doing business with Primate Products.”

However,  Gary Margules Sc.D., vice president for Research and Technology Transfer, said NSU had already ended the relationship with Primate Products after successful completion of their research project.

Justin Goodman, associate director for PETA’s Laboratory Investigations Department, said photos of the primates were posted online anonymously. The photos showed primates with bloody gashes on their faces, skulls and bodies.

Melissa Bowers, first-year dental student, said, “I think it is necessary to use animals in research, but I think it’s important to treat them respectfully and not abuse them.”

Appu Rathinavelu, associate dean of Institutional Planning and Development for the College of Pharmacy and executive director of Rambaugh-Goodwin Institute for Cancer Research, said all animals used for research by NSU are acquired through approved vendors. These vendors are required to follow all protocols and procedures in order to maintain a safe environment for its animals.

He said that animal research at NSU is proposed by a faculty member and may involve students taking part in the research. The researcher must complete a 12- to 15-page proposal detailing the specifics on the research they are seeking to complete.

A committee made up of NSU scientists and a non-scientist not affiliated with NSU, must approve the proposal before any research is done. Rathinavelu said this allows for the perspective of members in the related field and an objective, outside point of view.  A consulting veterinarian also reviews and approves research proposals.

Rathinavelu also said that once the research proposal has been approved, there are protocols that must be followed to ensure the safety of the animals involved in the project. Everything from feeding to managed care for the animals must be documented. Also, the correct delivery and amounts of anesthesia must be available to the animal, if necessary.  Internal inspections are made twice a year, he said.

The schools most involved in animal research are the pharmacy and dental schools and the animals involved in research are mostly rodents.

“The FDA requires new drugs to be tested on animals before they can be given to humans,” said Rathinavelu.

The NSU Oceanographic Cen-ter may conduct research on fish and other aquatic animals. NSU has an animal facility at Rambaugh-Goodwin and also has a small lab at the Health Profession Division, but these facilities are not equipped to handle large animals.

Jonni Meek, inspection and licensing assistant at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said the USDA oversees and inspects companies like Primate Products. Inspections are done once a year when the inspector reviews the company’s records for the year. According to public records of the inspections, Primate Products is in compliance with the law, but Meek confirmed that a complaint has been filed against the company.

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