In December 2019, Texas Biomedical Research Institute and the Southwest National Primate Research Center (SNPRC) completed its regular, annual inspection by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in which USDA veterinary inspectors review all areas of animal care and treatment. The USDA reports comprise information on activities requiring corrective action. SNPRC received four critical findings requiring corrective action. In each of the incidents, corrective action was taken immediately following the incidents earlier in the year and noted as corrected in the report prior to the inspection visit. No further action is required.
During the inspection, USDA complimented SNPRC’s animal care team on its dedication to animal welfare. The inspectors also lauded the Institute’s Animal Care and Use Committee for its administrative organization. The IACUC is comprised of scientists and laypersons from the community who evaluate and approve research projects involving animals. Additionally, USDA commended Texas Biomed’s Board of Trustees for recently approving a multi-million-dollar infrastructure investment to enhance animal facilities at SNPRC.
“Our team works very hard to ensure we provide a safe and healthy environment for our nonhuman primates, and our animal care team is exceptional,” said Dr. Deepak Kaushal, Director of SNPRC. “We are working closely with the USDA and other regulatory agencies to determine how we can best improve our animal care program even more, as this year provided some unforeseen infrastructure challenges.”
The December inspection report includes enclosure concerns.
In July, a macaque injured her finger by placing it in a small hole in her primary enclosure. This was a known hazard for this particular macaque and several enclosures had been modified for this animal; however, during a cage change, the animal was accidentally placed in a cage that had not been modified and sustained injury to her finger. The animal received immediate medical attention. Staff promptly modified all 16 enclosures in the area to ensure all animals, even during change outs, have access to modified housing to avoid this type of accident. All employees were retrained, and signage was added so employees can clearly see any special modifications necessary.
In October, a baboon received immediate veterinary care after it was found to have sustained an arm fracture after placing his arm through holes in the primary fence enclosure. The fencing is standard size and had not previously been shown to be an issue. Video and personnel observations are ongoing to ensure this is not a recurring event for animals in this enclosure.
Marmosets being housed separately by tray dividers in their primary enclosure were able to gain access to one another. They fought, and one marmoset sustained critical injuries. The veterinary staff provided immediate medical attention to both animals; however, one animal had to be euthanized. While staff was unable to determine how the trays were moved to allow access; they have added additional clips to the separators to prevent accidental opening by the animals.
Housing Facilities – General
In November, a baboon was found to have accidentally strangled in her holding cage after she pulled a door cable into the cage. The animal care staff immediately attended to the animal. Staff also determined a way to clip all cables out of reach of the animals. All staff has now been trained in how to secure the clips and what to do if one was found missing.
“In each of these instances, our team provided immediate corrective action, even prior to our annual inspection,” explained Dr. Kathy Brasky, SNPRC Interim Attending Veterinarian. “We strive for zero accidents and certainly never want to find vulnerabilities in previously inspected and approved housing structures. We report these instances to our IACUC and the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare and the USDA so that we ensure we are not only in compliance with the law but that we continuously seek feedback and resources to improve our animal care program.”
“These animals in our care enable scientists worldwide to conduct studies that make possible breakthrough discoveries of causes, preventions, treatments and cures of disease,” Dr. Kaushal added. “We have a deep responsibility to excellent animal care.”