USDA investigating possible animal neglect at university
RENO – The U.S. Agriculture Department is investigating the University of Nevada, Reno’s College of Agriculture amid allegations of animal neglect and abuse, including the deaths of 38 pregnant sheep.
The incidents occurred over three years and resulted in retaliation against faculty member Hussein S. Hussein, who reported alleged violations of federal animal welfare law to the government, a Reno newspaper reported Monday.
Dean David Thawley, who has run the agriculture college since 1998, denied the university violated any laws or regulations covering the treatment of animals. He also said the school was not taking retaliatory action against Hussein, including seeking to have him fired.
“I’m absolutely confident that there will be no findings of retaliation against anyone and I don’t believe there will be any fines for violations,” Thawley said.
“It’s common for inspectors to find some deficiencies in most operations when they inspect them – just minor deficiencies that might need to be corrected,” he said. “But retaliation? Neglect and abuse? No.”
USDA investigators said if any of the allegations are proved, the university could face thousands in fines or restrictions on its federal license to keep research animals. Investigator Burke A. Newman said the probe could take months.
The investigation began in September, a month after the Gazette-Journal began reporting on research at the school. Among its findings:
n In October 2002, 38 pregnant sheep died when they were left in a narrow paddock behind a locked gate without food or water for three days.
n The USDA is investigating allegations that the college has illegally disposed of research sheep by burying them instead of incinerating the carcasses as required.
n In 2002 a herd of purebred Angus cattle were undernourished while on the university’s S-bar-S Ranch. Thawley said the animals were part of an experiment to breed “tougher range cattle” and were healthy.