RENO, Nev. (KRNV & MyNews4.com) -- Stop Animal Exploitation Now! wants the USDA to launch an investigation into Charles River Laboratories over actions they say are major violations of the Animal Welfare Act and caused the deaths of nine animals between 2009 and 2011.
"In the last three reporting years, Charles River Laboratories has killed nine animals through negligence," said Michael Budkie, co-founder of SAEN.
That's four rabbits, four primates and a dog. The USDA reports cite the cause for the deaths as "gavage error."
"Gavage error is something where the substance that is being tested is we believe accidentally placed in the lungs instead of the stomach and that basically results in the animals in question drowning in what would be considered a potentially toxic chemical," Budkie said.
He says that raises questions about the employees' competence and violates the Animal Welfare Act.
"Clearly in these situations the animals experience distress," Budkie said. "They died in most instances as a result of this."
After two phone calls and voicemails today the site manager for Charles River's lab in Reno didn't respond, but the director of public relations in Massachusetts did send us a statement saying, "The survival ates for major diseases are at an all-time high thanks to the discovery of new drugs. Charles River's work is an essential component of the research that has led to these discoveries and has played a vital role in medical advances for humans as well as animals. Charles River has a deep commitment to animal welfare and we make every effort to exceed national standards for the care of the animal models under our stewardship."
But she didn't respond to follow up questions about when and why this procedure is used.
It's unclear if any action was taken against the employee or employees who made the errors.
Budkie says SAEN wants the USDA to take action against the company.
"We want them to face the maximum penatly allowable under the law," Budkie said.
The USDA reports don't say where the nine deaths happened, but Budkie says Reno is one of two locations Charles River Laboratories uses for testing primates.
The local lab has been under the microscope in the past.
In 2008 a heating malfunction killed 32 primates, and in 2009 Charles River Labs had to pay a $4,500 fee after a primate was left in its cage while it went through a cage washing machine and the animal died.