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Southborough's Primate Research Center issued federal warning
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has warned the New England Primate Research Center for alleged violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.
The Oct. 4 warning letter follows the death of an animal at the center in June. The USDA decided not to formally investigate the facility, but the letter puts it on notice, said David Sacks, department spokesman.
The Southborough facility, owned and operated by Harvard Medical School, needs to correct the violations, Sacks said. It could face penalties of up to $3,750 for each violation of the Animal Welfare Act in the future.
The USDA did not say that any Animal Welfare Act violations contributed to the death of the primate, Sacks said.
Officials found the primate's body on the floor of a cage that had been sent through a cage-washing system June 9. But the facility committed violations in failing to properly observe the primate and remove it from the cage before the cleaning, according to the warning.
The facility also failed to ensure that workers involved in animal care, treatment and use are qualified to perform their tasks, the warning said.
"This event was inconsistent with our outstanding record of safety and ongoing commitment to excellence in our research program," Harvard Medical School said in a statement. "We took immediate actions to strengthen our standard operating procedures, and to ensure that (the center's) staff are fully trained and strictly comply with protocols to help ensure the health, well being and safety of all (non-human primates)."
The school's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, which oversees the center's program, is also looking into whether it should initiate other improvements.
Stop Animal Exploitation Now, an Ohio-based animal rights organization, recently filed a complaint against Harvard Medical School, alleging that the New England Primate Research Center did not properly report its experiments on animals.
The Southborough facility is one of eight National Primate Research Centers. It houses 1,800 primates.
(Paul Crocetti can be reached at 508-490-7453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)