SALT LAKE CITY — A research program at the University of Utah did not properly detail all procedures performed on lambs in 2017, according to a federal inspection report made public Friday.
The review comes after national and student animal advocates filed complaints against the school, saying a lamb that reportedly died in a pulmonary test was among several research animals killed by mistake or euthanized through improper methods that did not get required approval.
Researchers' protocol "did not completely list all procedures that were performed and potential side effects of the pulmonary function tests," states the report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's animal and plant health inspection service. The lack of disclosure prevented an animal welfare standards panel from making a thorough review to ensure the animals would be treated humanely, the review states.
The panel, an institutional animal care and use committee, approved the 20 tests on 13 lambs from January to April 2017.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Students for Animal Welfare, a U. student organization, filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare in December.
By the time of the inspection on May 24, the university had updated its protocol to include all procedures, possible side effects and steps to reduce risk and treat side effects, the report states. The review did not mention whether an animal died.
PETA on Friday was not satisfied. The group in a statement said a researcher in the lamb study "should lose his federal funding as well as his keys to the laboratory."
Julie Kiefer, U. manager of science communications, emphasized in a statement that the university is devoted to making sure laboratory animals are treated humanely. She said a board of experts rigorously reviews each animal study and a team of veterinarians and professional staff monitors each of the animals every day.
"The university takes its responsibilities seriously and self-reports all infractions and implements corrective actions immediately," the statement continued. "Although incidents are extremely rare, we are committed to reducing the number to zero and ensuring humane animal care for every research study."
In addition to the lamb, the groups' Dec. 20 complaint filed with the USDA's director of animal welfare operations alleged two rabbits suffered a "prolonged" euthanasia, and a marmoset died following significant deviations from protocol.
Friday's report indicates that the agency inspected species including marmoset and rabbit, among others, but did not provide further information.