Animal rights group calls for investigations into Sam Houston State animal welfare practices

Joseph Brown | The ItemSam Houston State University is planning a $13.5 million upgrade to Gibbs Ranch in northern Huntsville. The expanded facilities will include a new covered arena, an academic and rodeo training arena, a classroom and office building, a stall barn with an equine physiology lab, a hay and equipment storage barn and site amenities that include a horse walker and pens. 

SAEN, an Ohio-based animal rights watchdog, is calling for investigations into Sam Houston State University’s animal teaching practices, citing the “negligent” deaths of 10 cows.

The group filed the complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, alleging that the cow deaths at the Gibbs Ranch violated the federal Animal Welfare Act, which regulates laboratories, colleges and universities who use animals “for research, tests, experiments, or teaching.”

Obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request, an SHSU report states: “10 beef bulls died in the field due to no water.” The research administration at SHSU suspended the project, and the individual responsible for the project has been replaced, the report said. “

SAEN alleges that the animal deaths, and the botched/suspended protocol, violate multiple federal regulations for watering, reporting, and protocol supervision by an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

The federal complaint filed with the USDA calls for a full investigation and a federal fine of $10,000 per infraction/per animal, or $100,000.

“What kind of an example does this incident give the students of the Animal Science program at Sam Houston State University,” said SAEN Executive Director Michael A. Budkie. “Negligence like this must be punished.”

Following the incident, the university created multiple daily checkups for animal welfare, availability of feed/ supplement resources and water availability to the animals.

“The welfare of all animals used in Sam Houston State University research is a top priority and an equally important part of our ethical responsibility,” university officials said in a statement. “Committed to transparency and immediate action, SHSU’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee was convened to investigate after receiving notification of the incident. … Beyond what laws and regulations dictate, we recognize that animals are living creatures that deserve to be treated with care and compassion. We are committed to ensuring the well-being of our animals.”

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