A national animal rights group is calling for Summa Health System to face federal fines over the death last year of a research pig.
Stop Animal Exploitation Now filed a complaint against Summa Akron City Hospital on Friday with the U.S. Department of Agriculture seeking an investigation into whether the hospital violated the federal Animal Welfare Act.
The complaint stems from a routine inspection by the USDA last month that found a watering system malfunctioned in May in a pig enclosure at the hospital’s animal research lab.
“As a result one pig was without access to water for one day or less,” the inspector’s report concluded. “Within 24 hours of resolution of the problem, the animal died.”
Summa spokesman Mike Bernstein said the hospital reported the malfunction to the USDA and made immediate repairs.
“We were not cited for the death of an animal as a result of that malfunction or for any inappropriate care of an animal,” Bernstein said. “We were only cited for the malfunction that occurred to one of the watering systems. This is an extraordinarily rare circumstance.”
No subsequent inspections were conducted, and “the matter is closed as far as the USDA is concerned,” USDA spokesman David Sacks said in an email on Friday.
“The hospital already put corrective measures in place when our inspector conducted the Jan. 10, 2013, inspection,” Sacks said.
But Stop Animal Exploitation Now is seeking federal citations and fines of as much as $30,000.
“They obviously aren’t set up to make sure that animals are receiving sufficient water to keep them from dying,” said Michael Budkie, executive director of the nonprofit group. “That makes it clear that there is a major problem with their system.”
The group, based in suburban Cincinnati, filed another complaint with the USDA last month over the death of two mouse-like voles in the University of Akron’s biology lab.
“We believe that human beings would be better served if the funding that was going into animal research would be redirected into clinical and epidemiologic research projects,” Budkie said.
The watchdog organization monitors 1,000 public and private research labs nationwide, including 80 in Ohio.
Bernstein said the care of research animals is “extremely important” to Summa.
“For many decades, people around the world have enjoyed significant improvement in quality and length of life due to animal-based research,” he said. “With that comes great responsibility on our part to care for the animals, which we take very seriously and strive to do every day.”
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell.