USDA Alleges Large-Scale Animal Abuse by Biotech Company Again

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Santa Cruz Tech Beat recently named Santa Cruz Biotechnology Inc. (SCB) one of the six companies to watch in the city's fast-developing biotech hub.

You don’t have to tell the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that. They’ve been eyeballing SCB, one of the world’s leaders in sales of antibodies, biochemicals and labware to researchers, for a decade—and don’t particularly like what they see.

“There is reason to believe that the respondent named herein has willfully violated the Animal Welfare Act,” begins complaints brought by the department in July 2012 (pdf) and August 2015 (pdf). The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has repeatedly cited the company for noncompliance with regulations since 2005.

The latest complaint accuses the company of demonstrating “bad faith” by hiding an unidentified number of regulated animals in undisclosed facilities to avoid inspection. The Santa Cruz Sentinel said the number is around 800.

SCB rides herd on an estimated 19,000 animals, many of them goats and rabbits, for research. The new complaint includes a litany of abuse. SCB failed to provide minimally adequate veterinary care, didn’t notice or report animal health problems in a timely fashion and did not provide emergency care. And then there was this:

“After suffering for hours, a goat was euthanized by veterinary tech personnel, using a captive bolt gun and no secondary euthanasia method, because no veterinarian was available.”

That doesn’t seem OK. But neither did it seem OK back in 2012 when SCB was chastised for having just one vet to service 10,000 goats and 6,000 rabbits. The vet, apparently, wasn’t very happy about the working conditions, either. She told investigators (pdf) that, in addition to being responsible for the animals, she had administrative chores “and was unable to keep up with the work load.” SCB is reportedly is down to fewer than 6,000 goats.

The 2015 complaint picks up where the 2012 complaint left off. The earlier complaint profiled in detail a number of individual distressed goats from 2007-2011, while the new one covers late 2012 and 2015. Animals suffered from injury, disease and neglect―some near death.

The USDA complaint was heard in August by an administrative judge in Washington, D.C., the first hearing of its kind in 14 years, according to Meredith Wadman, an editorial fellow at the New America think tank who attended. Writing for the Sentinel, Wadman noted testimony from Dr. Marcy Rosendale, a USDA inspector who has visited SCB since 2003, that the facility was the only one of its kind not taking care of its animals.

The Animal Welfare Institute said Dr. Rosendale told the judge it won’t get better without a bit more prodding. “I don’t see a will,” she said. “Others do it, but I’m not seeing a willingness to come into compliance.”      

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Biotech Abuses Expose Holes in Federal Animal Protections (by Cat Ferguson and Dan Vergano, BuzzFeed)

Santa Cruz Biotech Faces Third USDA Complaint Alleging Animal Mistreatment; Shooting Goat in the Head (by Jondi Gumz, Santa Cruz Sentinel)

No Excuse for Cruelty to Goats Raised for Medical Research (by Meredith Wadman Special to the Mercury News)

Biotech Company Accused of Having 1 Vet for 10,000 Goats and 6,000 Rabbits (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

2015 Complaint Against Santa Cruz Biotechnology Inc. (U.S. Department of Agriculture) (pdf)

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