Politics & Government

The USDA cited a failed euthanasia of a rabbit at one of the facilities, and the drowning of 26 hamsters whose cages had been flooded.

Posted Mon, Jul 1, 2024 at 12:00 pm ET|Updated Mon, Jul 1, 2024 at 4:36 pm ET

The civil penalties against Intervet Inc., which is part of Merck Animal Health​, follow a federal complaint​​ filed by national research watchdog Stop Animal Exploitation NOW (SAEN) this April.
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MADISON, NJ — A private research laboratory with campuses in Madison and Rahway faces a $43,500 fine from the U.S Department of Agriculture after more than two dozen animal deaths.

The civil penalties against Intervet Inc. follow a federal complaint filed by national research watchdog Stop Animal Exploitation NOW (SAEN) this April. The facility is associated with Merck Animal Health.

The USDA said it believes Intervet violated the Animal Welfare Act on multiple occasions between Aug. 2019 and Jan. 2024, including the failed euthanasia of a rabbit earlier this year, and multiple incidents where hamsters’ cages flooded, resulting in 26 deaths.

According to the USDA, the facility had euthanized 16 rabbits by carbon dioxide chamber on Jan. 8, but did not expose the animals to the gas for long enough, and did not check all the animals were dead.

One rabbit had survived, and was found moving around the freezer where the euthanized animals were kept the next day after chewing through the bag, inspectors reported. Upon discovery, it was then euthanized by a veterinarian.

Two hamsters also died of dehydration in February of 2022, with the USDA saying no water was able to reach their enclosure because there was not enough pressure from the main water manifold.

In these incidents, the federal agency said Intervet failed to properly euthanize the rabbit and check it had died, failed to ensure certain personnel were properly trained, and failed to “provide housing facilities that were in good repair and protected the animals housed within as required.”

Merck has headquarters in Rahway, and a research facility in Madison off of Woodland Drive, at 2 Giralda Farms. The company can choose to pay the fine, and enter into a settlement agreement to resolve the allegations.

Patch has reached out to Merck for comment.

SAEN’s executive director, Michale A. Budkie, A.H.T., said the fine “is nothing” to a Merck-affiliated company. The organization, which monitors research facilities in the U.S. for violations, had called for a $300,000 fine.

“The incompetence of the Intervet laboratory staff killed dozens of animals, and injured many others, breaking federal law,” said Budkie in a statement. “This bungling lab deserved a much larger penalty in the six-figure range.”

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