Disappearance of Goats, Rabbits at Santa Cruz Biotechnology Raises Questions About Facility's Future

Washington, DC—A recently released United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspection report from January 2016 discloses that Santa Cruz Biotechnology, Inc. (SCBT), one of the world’s largest producers of animal-derived research antibodies, has eliminated its entire inventory of goats and rabbits.

An inspection conducted by the USDA just six months prior revealed an inventory of 3,202 goats and 2,471 rabbits. The dramatic exodus of the facility’s goat and rabbit inventories coincides with an unprecedented series of enforcement actions by the USDA against SCBT. These actions are tied to numerous citations issued against the company by USDA veterinary inspectors, alleging serious violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), including concealing an entire barn housing over 800 goats who had been used in antibody production.

“SCBT has been repeatedly cited by the USDA for failing to meet the modest requirements under the law,” said Cathy Liss, president of the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), which has brought public scrutiny to the allegations against SCBT. Since 2012, AWI has repeatedly called for the USDA to take action, including seeking revocation of SCBT’s dealer license and issuing a substantial fine against the facility. “This company has been on the USDA’s enforcement radar for more than a decade. It appears that its misdeeds have finally caught up with it. We applaud the department for its diligence and will continue our efforts to ensure that no animals will ever suffer at SCBT again.”

Three separate complaints filed by the USDA against SCBT are currently pending. The most recent complaint, issued in August 2015, alleged SCBT had “willfully violated” the AWA and “demonstrated bad faith by misleading” USDA personnel. An August 2015 hearing on the first two complaints was abruptly suspended, at SCBT’s request, after the presentation of a damning case by the government. Resumption of the hearing is scheduled for April 5, 2016, and a hearing on the third complaint is scheduled to follow immediately thereafter. No other registered research facility has faced a hearing of this magnitude since the AWA became law nearly 50 years ago.

The USDA is seeking a judicial order imposing a fine and suspending or revoking SCBT’s dealer license. The company must have such a license to sell antibodies derived from species that are covered under the Animal Welfare Act, such as goats and rabbits. As allegations against the company have surfaced, prominent individuals in the research community—including Alice Ra’anan and Bill Yates of the American Physiological Society—have advocated for researchers to reconsider purchasing antibodies from SCBT.

To view the latest inspection report and learn about AWI’s actions surrounding SCBT, please visit http://awionline.org/scbt.