Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Forgotten Victims of Huricane Katrina: Lab Animals: Animal-Rights Groups Demand Punishment for LSU Over Lab Animals' Deaths

The forgotten victims of Huricane Katrina: Lab Animals. I bet there's many who didn't even consider this horrid reality. Of course, LSU and the govt. have no interest at all in taking any action to punish. Goes right along with the initial response.


From the issue dated September 30, 2005
Animal-Rights Groups Demand Punishment for LSU Over Lab Animals' Deaths


The loss of life among laboratory animals in the chaos after Hurricane Katrina struck has not gone unnoticed by animal-rights supporters. One group has sent a series of letters seeking punishment for Louisiana State University and two of its officials for their roles in the treatment of animals that died at the university's Health Sciences Center in downtown New Orleans after the storm.

In the days after Katrina made landfall, the center's hospital and medical school lacked electricity, fresh water, and food supplies, and doctors were struggling just to keep patients alive. After five days of increasing desperation, in which some doctors were nearly passing out after giving what nourishment they had to patients, medical officials began a grim evacuation -- an exodus of critically ill patients up eight flights of rat-infested stairs to the roof, where they were met by a helicopter and sniper fire.

With the patients' safety assured, administrators then euthanized the lab animals that had not already died in the fetid floodwaters. One of the officials, Joseph M. Moerschbaecher, the center's vice chancellor for academic affairs, spoke to The Chronicle shortly afterward about losing the animals, including "some monkeys I'd had for 20 years."

The Health Sciences Center did have an evacuation plan for its lab animals, but the strength of the storm made it in impossible to execute. "The floodwaters came up so quickly that the human beings who were the caretakers for these animals were ordered to leave immediately," Charles F. Zewe, a spokesman for Louisiana State University, said.

In July the Health Sciences Center had applied to the Federal Emergency Managment Agency, or FEMA, for money to further develop an emergency plan, but the center was put on a waiting list.

In letters dated September 15 and 16 and released by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals on September 20, the group alleged that many of the animals were not euthanized but left to die in their cages. Among the recipients of the letters:

* The attorney general of Louisiana, Charles C. Foti Jr.: PETA called on him to charge officials at the Health Sciences Center's School of Medicine with cruelty to animals. "We believe that Louisiana State University officials must be charged with the cruel abandonment of the thousands of animals who drowned, suffocated, starved, or died of dehydration in its laboratories" during the storm, the letter said.
* The U.S. Department of Agriculture: PETA requested that the department charge the Health Sciences Center with violating the Animal Welfare Act, the federal law that covers the treatment of animals used in research. That law and federal regulations, however, appear to provide no guidance or requirements for the treatment of lab animals in an emergency like that posed by a hurricane.
* The U.S. secretary of health and human services, Michael O. Leavitt: PETA asked that the medical school be denied funds from the National Institutes of Health to rebuild animal labs in areas prone to natural disasters.
* The chancellor of the Health Sciences Center, John Rock: PETA demanded that he dismiss Dr. Moerschbaecher and Larry H. Hollier, dean of the medical school. The animal-rights group did not base its request to Mr. Leavitt on a particular law but on what Mary Beth Sweetland, PETA's senior vice president, described in her letter as a "dereliction of duty to the animals."

The attorney general's office, the Agriculture Department, and the Department of Health and Human Services did not respond to requests for comment on the letters. Mr. Zewe said, "LSU does not plan to take any actions regarding PETA's accusations."
Section: Research & Publishing
Volume 52, Issue 6, Page A19

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