UPDATE: Tell USDA to Take Meaningful Action Against Biotech Cited for Animal Welfare Act Violations
The Animal Welfare Institute continues to monitor the allegations of serious, longstanding violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) at Santa Cruz Biotechnology (SCBT), a major supplier of animal-derived antibody products to the research industry.1 A court hearing that had been scheduled to begin July 14, 2014, has been cancelled to give the US Department of Agriculture and SCBT “ample time” to reach a settlement. We need your help now more than ever to ensure that the company is punished to the fullest extent of the law and does not merely receive a slap on the wrist.
In 2005, SCBT received just such a slap: a $4,600 fine resulting from 23 alleged AWA violations regarding animal sanitation, veterinary care, and personnel training over a two-year period. But that paltry fine did not deter SCBT. USDA issued multiple citations to SCBT in 2007. In addition, since May 2010 USDA inspectors have documented allegations of egregious and ongoing violations of the AWA at SCBT.
Many of these allegations prompted USDA to file a formal complaint in July 2012—a serious step the Department rarely takes. According to the inspection reports, these violations include failing to provide veterinary care for sick and injured animals, and have caused much needless suffering. The most appalling findings come in a report from October 31, 2012, that indicates that SCBT willfully hid the existence of an entire facility housing over 800 goats used in antibody production.
Because the July 2012 complaint does not contain many of the most recent alleged violations, AWI has urged that USDA file a new or amended complaint that incorporates citations from USDA inspection reports conducted on May, June, August, September, October and December 2012, and February and May 2013—including the bombshell allegation from October 31, 2012.2
Based on the grave and cumulative nature of the violations reported by USDA inspectors, we have written to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack seeking revocation of SCBT's dealer license. We have also publicly urged the filing of a new or amended complaint.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
The cancellation of the July 14, 2014, hearing indicates that SCBT and USDA want to resolve this case without a public hearing (a step the Department routinely takes with registered research facilities).
It is important that you contact Kevin Shea, Administrator of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, as soon as possible, requesting that USDA file a new or amended complaint against SCBT and that USDA seek revocation of SCBT’s dealer license, and the stiffest fine allowed under the Animal Welfare Act. You can send an email through the Compassion Index by clicking here, where you will find suggested talking points to include in your email. Emails to Administrator Shea can also be sent directly to Kevin.A.Shea@aphis.usda.gov. (Please begin your email with "Dear Administrator Shea.")
Below are some talking points you can use in your letter to Administrator Shea:
- Thank you for the diligence and hard work of the USDA veterinarians who have spent years inspecting SCBT and documenting its many alleged violations.
- Nearly every routine inspection report since 2010 available to the public contains allegations of violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
- The denial by multiple SCBT employees of the existence of an entire site housing over 800 goats, even after direct and repeated questioning by USDA inspectors is alarming, and would appear to indicate a deliberate attempt to evade federal oversight.
- USDA must file a new or amended complaint against SCBT and seek revocation of SCBT’s license as a dealer, along with the maximum fine allowed under the law.
For additional information, including the inspection reports, as well as international media coverage, visit http://awionline.org/SCBT.
Please take action right away. Also, please pass this Dear Humanitarian eAlert on to family, friends and coworkers and encourage them to submit comments, as well. Administrator Shea must hear from individuals like you who are concerned about the welfare of animals in research to ensure that SCBT is held fully accountable—and all regulated entities get the message that noncompliance with the Animal Welfare Act has consequences.
As always, thank you very much for your help!
1. USDA policy mandates that labs such as SCBT that produce antibodies or antisera from animals are engaged in animal testing and are required to be registered as research facilities. In addition, because SCBT sells antibodies for research, testing or experimentation, it must also be licensed as a dealer in addition to its research registration. The USDA has alleged violations under both SCBT’s research registration and dealer license.
2. USDA publicly lists no inspection reports at SCBT after May 2013.