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U.S. investigating alleged reporting violation at LRRI

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A federal agency is investigating whether Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute failed to report violations of animal welfare laws uncovered during inspections of its Albuquerque facilities.

The institute must follow reporting guidelines set out by the National Institutes of Health because it receives grant money from the agency for research that involves use of animals.

The laboratory has been accused of at least a dozen violations of the Animal Welfare Act since 2015. Those violations, found by inspectors with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, have involved the handling of animals, failure to consult a veterinarian when animals showed symptoms of illness, resulting in at least one death of a monkey, and problems with Lovelace’s internal animal care committee not performing its dutes.

However, Lovelace has not filed required reports with the NIH’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare outlining those violations since February 2015, said Michael Budkie, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now, or SAEN.

Lovelace denies that contention, saying it is “fully compliant.”

“Extensive information about the animals, facility and operations is shared frequently and meticulously with the many government agencies that evaluate and audit the work LRRI does,” the lab said in a statement.

However, the lab would not provide copies of the reports it says it filed because they contain proprietary information, a spokeswoman said.

She added that the NIH office in January granted Lovelace a renewal of its “assurance,” which sets out programs for animal care, among other things.

In the renewal letter, senior officer Venita B. Thornton says, “I would especially call your attention to the reporting requirements that are essential for continued compliance …”

The NIH office said in a statement that is investigating SAEN’s complaint.

“NIH takes very seriously all allegations of non-compliance and investigates every allegation,” the statement said.