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  1. News Release

  2. Sep 4, 2020

Wayne State Routinely Violates Federal Animal Welfare Rules According to Newly Released Records

Documents Reveal Animal Deaths, Failure to Provide Pain Relief, and Unapproved Surgeries

DETROIT–According to records recently obtained by a national nonprofit organization through the Freedom of Information Act, Wayne State University has violated federal animal welfare rules at least 20 times since October 2016, with most instances resulting in animal deaths. In one case, a pregnant female rabbit was euthanized after staff failed to secure her cage door overnight and she jumped five feet to the floor below, causing “significant spinal injury” and partial paralysis of her hind legs. Wayne State reported the violations to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, which typically acknowledges such reports without penalizing laboratories, even habitual offenders. 

Many of the violations occurred because Wayne State staff failed to properly monitor animals. In September 2019, six mice were found dead lying on paper towels inside a cage after an employee “left the mice unattended during recovery from anesthesia” because he was “in a hurry to go home.” That same month, 17 mice drowned when an incorrectly inserted cage above them placed pressure on a water release valve, causing a continuous flow of water into cages below. In June 2019, a dead, partially cannibalized female mouse was found in a large cage without any water bottle. Five other mice in the cage were dehydrated. Staff had not checked on the mice for five days. Similarly, in March 2017, a mouse was found dead and partially cannibalized along with a dehydrated, living mouse—staff had not checked on the animals in three days. 

Other violations related to experimenters and their employees failing to follow approved protocols, including numerous reports of inadequate pain relief. In January 2020, a research associate failed to provide pain relief to mice following surgeries on the animals. Documents from June 2019 show that, after surgery, rats were being given only half as much buprenorphine (an opioid pain reliever) as required. In another instance, reported in September 2017, two rats were euthanized after unapproved surgeries were performed on them, and three other rats were not given the correct amount or type of pain relief after surgery.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which obtained the records from the NIH, has long criticized Wayne State for its poor animal welfare standards and use of dogs in heart failure and hypertension experiments. 

“These new documents reflect exactly what we have seen in the records of dogs used at Wayne State—cruelty and wasted taxpayer money,” said Physicians Committee director of academic affairs John Pippin, MD, FACC. “University leaders have been getting away with this for decades. Wayne State must shift its research to studies that benefit people and spare animals, starting with its dead-end dog experiments.”

The Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals applies to research facilities, such as Wayne State, that use animals in studies funded by the NIH and other federal agencies. The NIH has been criticized for many years for failing to create any mechanisms to enforce the policy, instead relying on “self-regulation” by laboratories.

For a copy of the documents or to speak with Dr. Pippin, please contact Reina Pohl at 202-527-7326 or rpohl [at]

Media Contact

Reina Pohl, MPH



Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in education and research.

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