The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported in July the University of Wyoming provided inadequate veterinary care of two research sheep.
Bret Hess, associate dean of the UW Agricultural Experiment Station, said the sheep were housed at the Laramie Research and Extension Center and the violation resulted from a “misfortunate understanding that was taken care of immediately.”
USDA inspectors conduct unannounced visits to licensed or registered facilities to ensure compliance with the Animal Welfare Act.
USDA Veterinary Medical Officer Engel Dominique noted personnel at the Laramie facility failed to follow federal law which requires research facilities to provide “daily observation of all animals to assess their health and well-being” and ensure that “timely and accurate information on problems of animal health, behavior, and well-being is conveyed to the attending veterinarian.”
When one sheep suffered from urinary calculi in June, facility personnel tried to treat the animal themselves instead of calling a veterinarian. The animal ultimately died from the urinary calculi June 11.
The attending veterinarian was also not informed when another sheep was “vomiting almost on a daily basis” and staff were having to hand-feed her alfalfa pellets separately from the herd.
In an “unfortunate set of circumstances,” Hess said those personnel thought it was their responsibility — not the attending veterinarian’s — to attend to the animals’ health.
“This isn’t a case of neglect. It’s a case of proper procedures being followed,” Hess said.
Dominique listed UW’s federal violation as a “critical” noncompliance.
“Adequate daily observation of all animals and direct communication with the attending veterinarian is critical to ensure that conditions that can adversely affect health and well-being can be diagnosed and treated in a timely manner,” Dominique says in the July 10 report. “Injuries, diseases, and medical conditions that are not treated properly (as directed by a veterinarian) may be worsened and can lead to prolonged suffering.”
In 2018, USDA has produced inspection reports for 775 research facilities. Of those reports, only 15 contained “critical” violations.
Other universities to receive a violation categorized as “critical” in 2018 include North Dakota State University, the University of Montana, Washington University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and UC-Davis.
When Dominique previously conducted an inspection of UW in 2017, the inspector noted that bales of hay being fed to sheep were being stored outside with no protection — allowing mold to grow.
Another routine inspection of the university in 2016 found no non-compliant items. In 2012, it was fined $8,571 for not providing veterinary care to baby goats infested with parasites.
In response to the latest USDA report, animal rights groups have criticized UW.
Ingrid Taylor, a veterinarian with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, even called for an end to UW research and said “basic veterinary treatment and decent care appear to be foreign concepts inside laboratories at the University of Wyoming.”
Hess said PETA is “blowing this totally out of proportion.”