The University of Washington will pay $20,000 for the deaths of five baboons in 1994 and a series of “severe” animal care problems at its Medical Lake primate field station.
The university announced the payment Monday, saying it doesn’t constitute an admission of wrongdoing.
Earlier this year the U.S. Department of Agriculture filed a complaint against the school, saying the Medical Lake staff lacked adequate veterinary standards and failed to properly care for many of the 1,400 animals there.
Half of the $20,000 goes to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The other half will be spent on improvements to the Medical Lake facility, which houses 200 baboons and 1,200 monkeys, most of them used in health research.
Primate Center Acting Director William Morton said the university also agreed to add a second clinical veterinarian to the Medical Lake staff.
The five baboons died of exposure to cold in November 1994 when they were left in an outside play area after other animals returned to the building.
Federal inspectors said other violations included negligent care of animals, improperly maintained cages and failure to protect primate food from spoiling, said Ron DeHaven, of the Department of Agriculture.
They also cited the university staff for permitting a monkey to die of dehydration in June 1994.
“We feel the problems there are due to lack of employee training and lack of diligence and foresight by administrators,” DeHaven said.
The complaint against the university was “unusual” in citing more than 15 alleged violations, he said.
“The university has the most blemished record” of the three federally funded primate centers in the Western United States, DeHaven said.
If the university and the government had not settled the claim, a federal judge would have made a ruling. The university could have paid penalties of $2,500 per animal rights violation.
Morton said the center, used as a state mental hospital in the 1950s, is an “aging facility requiring constant maintenance.”
He said many of the problems cited by the government occurred while administrators were changing directors at the field station. The school hired a director with a veterinary background earlier this year, he said.
Morton said the baboons who died apparently had been ostracized by the other animals in the group.
He said other baboons kept the five from coming back inside.
Some of the complaints filed by the government resulted from two whistleblowers who worked at Medical Lake. Those employees, Terry Thompson and Linda Harrison, say school officials retaliated against them for calling attention to shoddy animal care practices.
Both quit the field station this year and are suing the university, asking for their jobs back and monetary penalties against the university.
Among the research projects at Medical Lake are several tests of anti-AIDS drugs and at least one AIDS vaccine. About 200 monkeys are being used in that research.