A U.S. Department of Agriculture report blames the University of Alaska Fairbanks for the death of a dozen musk oxen at the University’s Large Animal Research Station last fall. The recently issued USDA report follows a routine inspection, but cites several issues specifically related to the musk oxen die off, including an insufficient number of adequately trained LARS staff. Also noted is the facility veterinarian’s additional role as head of research, a situation it says resulted in perceived fear of reprisal by staff if they contacted him about animal welfare. UAF. spokeswoman Marmian Grimes says there’s nothing new in the report. She says LARS has been in consultation with the USDA since the musk oxen die off to address the problems.
Grimes says that’s resulted in a number of changes in animal care including separate people to handle veterinary care and research aspects of the program. The musk oxen die off was traced to a mineral deficiency caused by a new dietary supplement. Grimes says the musk oxen herd has recovered since the trace mineral problem was addressed, but UAF takes full responsibility for what happened.
A Lower 48 animal welfare group is pressing the USDA to more fully investigate animal care at UAF in light of what happened. Ohio based Stop Animal Exploitation Now co-founder Michael Budke says there’s something seriously wrong at the LARS facility if so many large animals could be allowed to die.
Budke has written to the USDA seeking an in depth inquiry, and proceedings to levy the university with a major fine.
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