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UW, other schools face calls to improve animal safety in research labs

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testing drugs and vaccine on mice. Concept - laboratory animals, testing drugs, vaccines. Research on laboratory animals

The University of Wisconsin won a recent legal battle tied to accusations of animal abuse within its research facilities. Activists hope that doesn't end the conversation - or the scrutiny.

The case had to do with the university restricting social media comments critical of certain conditions. Those comments were posted by Maddie Krasno, who graduated from UW in 2013 and now is an animal-rights advocate. Her lawsuit was dismissed, but Kranso said she feels what she witnessed while working in the school's facilities as a student is commonplace across the United States.

She said neither school administrators nor those enforcing standards are willing to act meaningfully.

"The people who are making the decisions are not considering, truly, the needs of these animals," she said, "and that would have to change."

Kranso's primary role was an animal caretaker, saying she witnessed deplorable and traumatizing conditions for primates. In recent years, UW was cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The school did not respond to a request for comment, but in a statement from 2020, it said similar accusations, by the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, were misleading, and that it takes animal care seriously.

Rick Bogle, a volunteer with the group Alliance for Animals, agreed that the University of Wisconsin's situation isn't unique. He said he feels federal officials can do their part by improving their inspection protocols when assessing these labs.

"Most of them are inspected annually, and annually appears not enough," he said. "Sometimes, these visits are just a few hours, or less than a day. And a place like the University of Wisconsin, there's labs all over campus."

Federal officials also did not respond to a request for comment. Meanwhile, Kranso said universities need to take into account the emotional impact on the people who perform daily tasks in their research facilities.

"There should be a non-affiliated psychologist or therapist with these institutions that have to check in on workers, especially student workers."

Mike Moen is a radio news reporter with nearly two decades of experience in the field. He has covered much of the upper Midwest, including Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. Many of his stories have aired nationally, including several public radio programs.
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