Dead hamster prompts call to end animal research at Lehigh

An animal research watchdog group that criticized Lehigh University for its treatment of two hamsters has asked the university president to launch an internal investigation and ban future animal tests.

Michael A. Budkie, executive director of the the Ohio-based group Stop Animal Exploitation Now, sent a letter Tuesday to Lehigh President John D. Simon.

“While this evaluation is being performed, please keep in mind that animals are not simply objects to be utilized however we see fit,” Budkie wrote. “Instead, these are sentient beings whose lives matter to them, belong to them, and should not be ended or altered merely to meet human ends.”

SAEN called out Lehigh last week after its review of federal documents found that Lehigh reported two instances to the federal government in which research hamsters had been mistreated.

In the first incident last March, a hamster was deprived of food or water for 36 hours. In April, researchers euthanized a hamster using carbon dioxide and placed it in a plastic bag in a freezer. The animal was later found outside the bag, Budkie said, after it awakened and tried to escape.

In a July 2015 letter to the National Institutes of Health, a Lehigh administrator disclosed that as a result of its findings, officials had relieved the research facility director of his duties as chairman of the Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee, an internal review board.

Lehigh also barred two people involved from its animal research facility, but SAEN said its responses didn’t go far enough.

SAEN said everyone involved in the incidents should be permanently barred from using animals.

The group, which monitors research facilities nationwide, also asked Lehigh to consider eliminating animal experiments altogether “in favor of investigating cutting edge technology, including 3-dimensional bio-printing, organ-on-a-chip technology, etc.”

Lehigh has not said what the hamsters were used for, and its self-reporting of the incidents does not shed any light on that.

In a statement Wednesday, Lehigh did not address the SAEN letter specifically but said the university is in good standing with both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, the government body that provides guidance on the use of laboratory animals.

“We remain committed to continuous efforts to enhance the efficacy of the university’s animal welfare program and to the ongoing protection of animals used in research,” said Lehigh spokeswoman Lauren Weaver.

Last week, Lehigh noted that it reported the incidents on its own and received assurances from the National Institutes of Health of its responses to the incidents.

“(The Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare) expressed satisfaction with the corrective actions regarding these incidents,” Weaver said then. “Lehigh University remains committed to protecting the safety, health and welfare of all animals.”

SAEN filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture alleging Lehigh violated regulations regarding personnel, animal handling and veterinary care. It is urging the maximum penalty of $10,000 per infraction, per animal.

In his letter Tuesday, Budkie said SAEN believes “a progressive university such as Lehigh has an obligation not only to act ethically, but also to prepare your students for their own future in the best possible way, by exposing them to cutting-edge technology, which will prepare them for scientific professions on the frontiers of scientific achievement.”

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7 thoughts on “Dead hamster prompts call to end animal research at Lehigh

  1. I sadly had one of my first adult aged hamsters about 8 years ago. He was off and I had him vetted out twice and got a female from a breeder. he had wet tail and recuperated from it and this was months later. Foolishly I had them in a cage together and the inevitable happened. He got ill on xmas eve and brought him to an animal hospital and he passed a cpl hours and 160 bucks later. His gf had 8 pups and they all were healthy. I learned a whole lot, found out to put them in bins, got safety wodent wheels and had many litters and had become a mod on Hamsteriffic and re homed a lot of babies that lasted 2-5 years, a whole lot more then those at stores that pass in a couple of months and I kept as many as 50 within colonies of same sex siblings and routinely had medicine for them, learned to cut their teeth and nails and loved the experience but seeing this story saddened me. My screensaver is a picture of one of my boys standing up against a hamster ball. Seeing neglect stories by places that routinely are supposed to do the opposite including PETA when they put more animals down than anyone in the world is sad.

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    1. Thanks for sharing Paul! I’ve never been interested in breeding them but got some for the first time a couple years ago, I have one atm. Growing up my bro & I had gerbils and rats but for some reason never hamsters. I’m glad I have had the chance to care for them. This story is damn shame and it made me feel a bit better to share it with others. Re PETA, I know how you feel, I no longer support in light of their employees illegally disposing of animals in their care several years ago and also they are pro-BSL, ridiculous antics/tactics to name a few..tho I may share something PETA related at times but it is very rare.

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      1. I remembered being quite young, around 6-7 and moving around. We ended in my grandparents while waiting for our house to be ready. I had 2 dogs since they were pups and both ran out the door when the movers came, mind you these dogs witnessed me falling down the stairs, one lept over me and layed down for me fall on the the other bit into my pants and my mother took a pic and I wrote about it and it made the papers. Losing these dogs hurt like hell. My mother got me hamsters and they had pups within a few days and many ppl do not know how long the gestation period is or how long they are in their time, not how long they live and they eat their babies. My grandmother threw them out on me after I was bit. it took me decades and I had hammies that were fine with me playing with newborns and they loved running. I went from having very bad experiences to at worst seeing they had a short lifespan but I rehomed many that lived a good 3-5 years and I got emails and often. The eldest I had was 6. I had them running in balls for up to 8 hours with food and water breaks and I took my 8 best to two Petco races and they swept the top 8 twice.

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      2. Did your dogs get lost or how did you lose them? I’m very sorry to hear about them. So it sounds like your grandmother threw them out literally??? OMG I hope not!! You sound like a natural in caring for and training them. I’m just sorry you had so much heartache in the past and with your dogs. Mine, his name is Jasper, is going to be 2 this year. He lightly nipped at me once but other than that he is so gentle and loving.

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      3. The dogs both got hit by cars. The hamsters, she dumped across the street in a wooded area before the parkway. My 3 dogs I had were Fluffy from 8-9 and my mom got rid of her bc she got pg twice bc my mom let her sleep outside, a Jack Russell. I kept the runt and named him Runt and he lived 19 years and died bc of my sister’s stupidity as they were spraying for west nile and I said do not let the dogs out and she routinely did for hours and he had 2 strokes. My girl Squirt, another Jack I did not fix as I wanted to breed her and you have to fix them early or it is tricky due to theyre high strung and putting them under is a danger. Her husband kicked her and she had a known illness and him breaking her ribs made her illness spread when her time of 6 months came by and it poisoned her. So I have my sister to cause me 2 dogs. I treat all my pets very well. I fed her steak and I had sides to keep her strong and my vet put me on the ASAP list to be allowed to adopt anywhere she knew of for free. However, my living conditions do not allow me to have a dog or any pet.

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      4. I am so sorry!! I really shouldn’t have pried, I didn’t mean for you to dwell on the past, was just trying to understand. Thank you for sharing so much Paul, I share in your pain. ♄

        Liked by 1 person

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