University of Kentucky Research Violations Cause Animal Suffering and Death

Amidst reports showing that University of Kentucky has violated federal animal research laws, The Humane Society of the United States urges the university to adopt a policy to ensure that animals in its laboratories do not experience severe pain and distress. Multiple requests for adoption of such a policy have so far been ignored by the university. According to the reports, the university’s violations resulted in death and distress of animals, including mice who were restrained for extended periods so mosquitoes could feed off of them,  live animals who were found in the carcass refrigerator, animals who were thrown in the trash by mistake, and animals who starved when they could not reach food and/ or water.

The HSUS learned of the university’s violations through inspection reports posted online by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the agency responsible for enforcing the Animal Welfare Act as well as documents received from the National Institutes of Health via the Freedom of Information Act.

“Seventy-five percent of the public opposes research that causes severe animal suffering,” said Kathleen Conlee, senior director for Animal Research Issues for The HSUS. “Especially in light of these disturbing incidents, University of Kentucky should publicly affirm its commitment to minimizing animal suffering in its research labs by prohibiting severe suffering altogether.”

More than 60 colleges and universities have adopted a policy ensuring that no animals in their laboratories experience severe suffering.


A partial list taken from reports by the university to the National Institute of Health’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare and reports filed by of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

September 2010: Mice were near death or died when they were kept on a blood flow restriction study for an hour and 20 minutes longer than the time period approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

August 2010: Sixteen rats were found in poor condition after being on water restriction—a procedure that was not approved by the IACUC.

July 2010: Several rats became ill after receiving a diabetes-inducing drug that was not approved by the IACUC.

June 2010: One rat died after a graduate student performed unauthorized surgery on three rats to collect embryos when the protocol stated that the embryos should be collected after the rats were humanely euthanized.

June 2010: Anesthetized monkeys were being transported to a study on a cart covered with a blanket, and through multiple hallways accessible to the public—a method that may not comfortably contain the monkeys during the rigors of transportation to avoid injury or stress.  The facility was cited by the USDA for failure to handle animals in a manner that does not cause trauma, overheating, behavioral stress, harm or unnecessary discomfort.

April 2010: Several mice died after they were implanted with dosing pumps that wound up restricting their access to food and water in the metabolism cages that they were housed in two days longer than was approved.

April 2010: Mice were injured and died when they were used as hosts for a mosquito feeding colony and were further subjected to prolonged physical restraint. This occurred at a field site in another country and the study did not have IACUC approval.

January 2010: Six monkeys underwent surgery and were euthanized without IACUC approval.

March 2009: Horses being used in an experiment were not provided with a shelter that provided a place for escape from bad weather conditions. The facility was cited by the USDA for failure to provide appropriate shelter from inclement weather to prevent discomfort to the animals.

March 2007- April 2009: On seven occasions, staff failed to ensure death of rodents following carbon dioxide euthanasia attempts and the animals were placed in the refrigerator as if they were dead.

December 2008: A mouse underwent surgery that was not approved by the IACUC.

May 2008: One of three mice was not found after they were inadvertently dumped in the trash during cage washing.

May 2008: Three mice died after receiving an unapproved oral compound.

May 2008: Two mice died after receiving tumor line injections intravenously rather than under the skin, contrary to the approved protocol.

February 2008: Four mice died and eight others were severely dehydrated when animal care staff did not detect that the cage rack was disconnected from the automatic watering system for a day and a half. 



  • In 2010, University of Kentucky reported to the USDA that they used 1,057 animals—including dogs, cats, hamsters, monkeys, rabbits, sheep, pigs, horses, gerbils, and guinea pigs—for research. University of Kentucky also uses mice and rats, but these numbers are not reported since these animals are not covered by the Animal Welfare Act.

  • In July 2008, The HSUS contacted University of Kentucky asking them to adopt a policy that the animals in their laboratories would not be subjected to research or conditions that would cause severe pain or distress. The University has not responded to that letter or the five additional contact attempts made by The HSUS from September 2008 to August 2010.

  • The USDA regulates animal research on some animal species under the Animal Welfare Act. The Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare oversees compliance with the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals by institutions such as University of Kentucky that receive federal funds for animal research. Both laws allow animal research that causes severe pain and distress; therefore, simply following federal law is not enough to prevent severe animal suffering.

  • University of Kentucky was awarded more than $83 million in federal research funds for FY2010. It is estimated that a large percentage of this money funds animal research.

  • 63 U.S. colleges and universities have affirmed that they have policies preventing severe animal pain and distress. 

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