On November 4, 2014, US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Administrator Kevin Shea filed a 10-page complaint alleging a plethora of willful violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) by Santa Cruz Biotechnology, Inc. (SCBT), one of the world’s largest suppliers of research antibodies. This marks the third AWA enforcement action against SCBT since 2005, including this almost unprecedented second complaint. The first complaint is still pending (see Winter 2013 AWI Quarterly).
In addition to civil penalties and a cease and desist order, the new complaint seeks the suspension or revocation of SCBT’s dealer license—a serious potential consequence given that USDA policy requires both a research registration and a dealer license for laboratories to sell animal-derived antibodies.
The complaint cites repeated failures to provide adequate veterinary care, research oversight, and fresh, nutritive food, as well as a failure to ensure that the procedures avoid or minimize animal pain and distress. But the heart of USDA’s latest complaint is the grave charge that SCBT willfully refused to even allow USDA inspectors access to an entire site housing over 800 goats from at least March 6 through October 30, 2012. When USDA inspectors were finally allowed access, they reported finding goats suffering and in need of veterinary care. The inspection report from October 31, 2012, states that “[t]he existence of the site was denied even when directly asked” during multiple prior inspections.
AWI supporters joined the organization in waging a relentless campaign calling for USDA to take firm action. Additionally, in an October 30, 2014, letter to USDA raising concerns about SCBT’s record, US Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) advised USDA to take enforcement action “as expeditiously as possible.”
With your help, AWI will continue the call for revocation of SCBT’s dealer license and the largest fine allowable by law. We will also urge all researchers to seriously consider a supplier’s animal welfare record and make an informed, ethical choice before purchasing a single antibody.