USDA official says fines unlikely for New Iberia Research Center citations

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s New Iberia Research Center is not likely to face fines for its recent citations by the USDA for Animal Welfare Act violations because the issues were corrected before inspectors’ arrival earlier this month, Tanya Espinosa, a USDA spokeswoman, said Friday.

“These noncompliances were corrected at the time of the inspection,” Espinosa said in an email response to questions. “We will continue to monitor this facility for noncompliances and to ensure compliance with the Animal Welfare Act, however, at this time there is no active investigation.”

Michael Budkie of the animal rights group, Stop Animal Exploitation Now, submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday asking that the research center face the maximum penalty of $10,000 for each citation.

The research center had self-reported internally three separate incidents involving research animals and corrected the issues.

A female rhesus macaque was injured and died in July after its left hand was caught in an enclosure in what NIRC Director Joe Simmons called an unusual accident. In January, five capuchin monkeys escaped their enclosure but were contained inside a room and unable to escape. In a March incident, a female rhesus macaque broke its arm after it became caught between a squeeze mechanism used to take its infant’s temperature and an enclosure. The animal forcibly removed its arm when it became caught, the inspection report stated.

A USDA routine inspection on Aug. 6, 2013, referenced the incidents and noted that each issue had been addressed.

“Noncompliances (do) not automatically result in penalty fines, nor do specific noncompliances result in penalty fines,” Espinosa said.