UC Irvine officials Tuesday vehemently denied allegations by an animal-advocacy group that negligence led to the deaths of six research animals at the university.

“Animals were not negligently killed, there is no evidence of lack or inappropriate care or procedures, and at no time was the university in violation of regulations overseeing the use of animals in research,” according to a statement from the university. “Information regarding animal research and outcomes are public documents.”

The university’s statement was issued in response to allegations made by Michael Budkie, co-founder of Stop Animal Exploitation Now, who claimed the school admitted the deaths of four rabbits, a sheep and a pig in correspondence to a federal government funding agency and in internal documents.

According to Budkie, the correspondence revealed botched surgical procedures, a lack of veterinary care and unqualified staff caused the animal deaths.

The correspondence discusses potential violations of multiple federal animal welfare regulations including requirements for qualified personnel, adequate veterinary care and proper animal handling, Budkie said.

He said SAEN has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture alleging multiple violations and calling for the opening of a federal investigation, while also urging the maximum federal fine of $10,000 per infraction and animal.

“Since this lab has documented multiple failures which led to fatalities, it is clearly time for the USDA to take action,” Budkie said. “Otherwise animals will continue to die unnecessarily, and federal funds will be squandered.”

In its statement, the university called Budkie’s accusations “flatly inaccurate.” UCI officials acknowledged the number of animals that died in testing, but denied any deaths were due to negligence.

UCI researchers take their “responsibility to the animals in our care… extremely seriously,” according to the statement.

University officials “do everything possible to ensure the responsible and humane treatment of animals within our care. Board-certified veterinarians are on call continuously and plan an active role in reviewing research and care.”

The university is “committed to reducing the number of animals used, consistently seeking out possible alternatives and actively supporting the development and use of non-animal-based research and testing models whenever possible.”

The university only uses live animals “when necessary, as a critical component in the discovery of cures and treatments that improve human lives,” according to the university’s statement.

A committee of scientists, veterinarians and other community leaders reviews the use of research animals, officials said.

“The USDA conducts unannounced visits to all registered research facilities at least once a year,” according to UCI. “UCI’s last inspection was in April 2018 and there were no citations.”

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