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Ferret brain experiments at University of Washington lead to animal welfare complaint

An animal rights organization is calling for the University of Washington to be fined for an alleged violation of the Animal Welfare Act. Health Sciences researchers at the university said they gave ferrets several impacts to the skull during a traumatic brain injuries study.

After one animal died, the University of Washington followed a required protocol to report it to the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare at the National Institutes of Health.

However, a national animal rights advocacy organization on Thursday filed a complaint against the university with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal Care office.

Michael Budkie, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now said in the complaint that he wants the the university to be fined to the maximum extent of $10,000 per infraction or animal. One of the ferrets used in the study was ultimately euthanized.

"Inflicting a head injury on a ferret, when it is done in a way that does not even follow the approved protocol — let alone the the anatomical and physiological differences between ferrets and human beings — is not going to provide information that is useful to human medicine," Budkie said.

In a statement the University of Washington said, "[It] did a careful investigation of the situation" and that "while there was a variation from the approved experimental protocol, the review found that there were no apparent animal welfare issues."

Officials added that the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, and USDA now considers the incident closed.