On October 31, an animal rights watchdog group filed a federal complaint against North Dakota State for the deaths of an entire bat colony — all 22 of them.
The animal rights group, Stop Animal Exploitation Now cited a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection report, dated June 20, 2017, of NDSU’s Research Park. The report recognizes the failure of NDSU staff to communicate with veterinary staff, a violation under the federal Animal Welfare Act.
“The failure of NDSU staff to report these deaths to veterinary staff directly contributed to the deaths of many of the bats because no diagnostic work was performed on the first bats who died, which could have prevented subsequent deaths,” according to a SAEN statement.
“The USDA inspector correctly cited North Dakota State University under code section 2.33(b) ATTENDING VETERINARIAN AND ADEQUATE VETERINARY CARE,” said SAEN in their complaint letter. The group also said the agency was correct for considering this a “critical violation, because this violation likely contributed to the deaths of the bats.”
According to the group, NDSU could potentially be fined thousands of dollars for breaking the federal law. Michael Budkie, SAEN co-founder and executive director, said “I must insist that you take the most severe action allowable under the Animal Welfare Act and immediately begin the process of issuing the maximum fine allowable against North Dakota State University at the completion of your investigation — $10,000 per infraction/per animal.”
Budkie believes the maximum fine is necessary, “(since) North Dakota State University has clearly demonstrated negligence which led to multiple animal deaths.”
Though not cited in the USDA inspection report, Budkie additionally stated in the complaint letter “I believe that North Dakota State University should also be cited under Sec. 2.32 Personnel Qualifications, because apparently the staff is so utterly unqualified that (it) did not think that dying animals were sufficient cause to contact veterinary staff.”
Sadie Rudolph, media relations coordinator for NDSU, said “NDSU remains committed to providing for the health and well-being of animals. NDSU researchers hibernate bats in an incubator to study their behavioral ecology, which allows for a deeper understanding of wildlife communication.”
“NDSU recently experienced the deaths of a colony of 22 bats and took immediate and appropriate corrective action. The complaint in question has been addressed with the researchers and steps have been taken to ensure the proper care of such animals,” Rudolph said.
In regard to compliance with the law, Rudolph said “Animal research is subject to a high standard of federal regulation and NDSU is dedicated to complying with these rules to provide the best possible animal care.”
SAEN is a nonprofit group based in Milford, Ohio. It is funded through donations and focuses on the treatment of animals used in research and “force an end to the abuse of animals in laboratories.”
No further information has been released or published by the University regarding the details surrounding the situation that resulted in the death of the bats or the research that was being conducted.