Animal programs

‘Duke must be punished’: Animal rights groups file federal complaints over welfare concerns

Animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has filed a federal lawsuit against Duke alleging animal abuse, according to an Aug. 17 press release.

PETA filed the lawsuit with the National Institutes of Health, saying the actions of a Duke researcher “may have resulted in the loss of two of the four puppies,” and the pigs weren’t fed for a weekend , according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection report.

Chris Simmons, Duke’s acting vice president for public affairs and government relations, declined to comment.

PETA’s complaint comes after Ohio-based nonprofit Stop Animal Exploitation Now obtained documents showing Duke received a “non-critical” violation during a routine unannounced lab inspection. conducted by the USDA. SAEN also filed a complaint against Duke with the USDA.

The July 19 USDA inspection report says three hogs weren’t fed over a weekend due to a “significant scheduling error.”

Additionally, a researcher trying to reach the on-call veterinarian during a difficult dog birth did not follow the pre-approved communication policy. This misstep “prohibited the [Duke Division of Laboratory Animal Resources] the vet’s ability to provide appropriate veterinary medical care,” which could result in the loss of two puppies.

“There is simply no excuse for the deaths of these puppies without veterinary intervention. Duke must be punished,” SAEN executive director Michael Budkie wrote in a statement to The Chronicle.

In both cases, the researchers developed a corrective action plan to prevent future incidents.

PETA is calling on the NIH to stop funding Duke’s research, according to a statement from Alka Chandna, PETA’s vice president for laboratory investigations.

The NIH is the university’s largest research funder as of fiscal year 2019, according to Duke’s government relations office. It contributed more than $423 million in fiscal year 2022, according to NIH data.

“According to federal reports, 1,433 animals in Duke laboratories were used in pain experiments and of these, 366 did not receive adequate pain relief,” Chandna wrote in the statement. “The university would do well to modernize its research program by leaving behind cruel and archaic animal experiments and instead using only sophisticated research methods relevant to humans.”

Duke isn’t the only Triangle university under scrutiny for its treatment of animals. Earlier this year, PETA and SAEN filed federal lawsuits against North Carolina State University after a USDA report found critical violations of animal welfare law.


Nadia Bey
| Digital Strategy Director

Nadia Bey is Trinity’s Senior Director and Digital Strategy for The Chronicle’s 118th volume. She was previously editor of volume 117.