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PETA alleges Cleveland Clinic is mistreating lab mice

Group complaint to NIH seeks to block federal funding over treatment of mice used in research.

CLEVELAND — Editor's note: the video in the player above is from a previous, unrelated story.

PETA has filed a complaint with federal health officials alleging the Cleveland Clinic continues to mistreat mice in laboratory research.

In a letter sent Monday to the National Institutes of Health and its Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, PETA asks the agency to withdraw its approval of the Clinic’s animal research.

The letter claims the Clinic "continues to demonstrate a profound disregard for the welfare of the animals held in its facilities." A similar complaint was filed last year, but was dismissed by the federal agency, PETA said in the letter.

Records PETA says it obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, "clearly show that even as it was publicly denying the negligence and sloppiness of its staff members, it continued to ignore” federal standards and “privately admitted to multiple violations."

PETA says its investigation focused on work performed between October 2018 and March of this year.

The organization made 16 claims of mistreatment. The allegations include mice tails being clipped by staff who failed to follow protocol, an undetermined number of mice confined in three cages and left in unauthorized labs and transported inappropriately, inappropriate hair removal and the inappropriate euthanasia of an undetermined number of mice.

Clinic officials released a statement Monday afternoon and denied any inappropriate treatment. They said they self-report issues to the NIH and other agencies while "taking internal actions to ensure this type of research continues to operate at the highest standards."

"We are committed to conducting the highest-quality research in the most ethical and responsible manner," the statement read. "Our research program consistently meets rigorous institutional and federal regulatory requirements. The occurrences and conditions alleged in the letter are inaccurate and misrepresented."

The Clinic also said:

"Our Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee and members of our animal care program follow strict federal regulatory guidelines. We have received Continuous Full Accreditation by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) since October 1976.

"In November 2019, our animal care program underwent an onsite review by the AAALAC Council on Accreditation as part of ongoing accreditation. AAALAC voted to maintain our Full Accreditation for conforming with their high standards and commended the program 'for providing and maintaining an excellent program of laboratory animal care and use' including 'the promotion of a culture of care' for the 'healthy, well cared for and enriched animals'."

PETA alleges in its letter that the Clinic has received about $397 million in funding through the NIH.

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