Mice crowd at the edge of a metal cage, their noses sticking through the bars

Mice Suffer and Die at Columbia University

Frances Chrzan, December 18, 2020

I don’t know about you, but eating tasty vegan food is one of my favorite things to do. I also carry a 72oz HydroFlask everywhere I go because I hate being thirsty. I live in a cozy little apartment in Washington, DC, and being—and working from—home is really comfortable. Food, water, shelter. Basic necessities for survival.

Unfortunately, mice at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City don’t have the basic necessities for survival.

Time and time again, year after year, mice suffer at Columbia University. The experimenters consistently “forget” to properly care for the mice and blatantly disregard animal welfare standards.

Here’s how the university failed in the past few years:

In 2017:

  • There were 4 cages of mice found during an investigation that had no food, water, or bedding. They were used in an expired protocol, meaning that the experiment was unapproved and shouldn’t have even been happening.
  • Five mice died of dehydration because the lab staff didn’t look closely enough to make sure water could be accessed by all 40 cages of mice, after switching to an automatic water system that the mice weren’t used to. 

In 2018:

  • An anonymous whistleblower reported that 20–25 cages of mice had insufficient, moldy food or water to the Executive Director of the IACUC, stating that there were dead mice. It is still unknown how many mice died. The cages were also in an unapproved location. 
  • Forty adult mice and 137 baby mice died of dehydration after their water source became disconnected. Nobody in the lab noticed for days, and apparently didn’t think it was worth checking. 
  • It was discovered that Columbia University Medical Center was using an unapproved method of euthanasia—freezing mice to death. This was not part of the approved protocol and is in direct violation of euthanasia standards set out by the American Veterinary Medical Association. 

In 2019:

  • Seven mice died in another unapproved fecal-related experiment. Thirty mice were affected, but the fecal transplant procedure—that wasn’t supposed to be happening—killed 7 individuals.
  • A mouse was used in an unnecessary experiment and the experimenter failed in almost every way possible to provide appropriate care. There was no heating pad during surgery, no records of the surgeries or pain medicine used, the lab equipment was not sterile, and the surgery performed was different than what was described in the protocol.
  • A mouse drowned to death on accident during a swim test because the water was too cold. The experimenter “left the carcass in the pool and departed.” 

It’s clear that the experimenters at the Columbia University Medical Center don’t care about the mice they use in experiments.

They ignore protocols, animal welfare standards, and basic animal needs for survival. They do unapproved procedures, kill mice in unapproved ways, and don’t even follow standards for surgery. 

We think it’s time they take a step back from using animals in experiments. That’s why we asked them in this letter to change the way they use animals at their facilities. We requested that they agree to count the number of animals they use in experiments, which is something that is surprisingly not required already. We asked them to disclose the number of animals they use, to add transparency to their program. And we asked that the Columbia University Medical Center commit to a reduction schedule—that they annually reduce the number of animals they use every year. 

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) requires that research facilities reduce the number of animals they use in experiments, but many labs don’t. Since it’s not really enforced and light isn’t shed on this issue, labs get away with it. We think that shouldn’t be the case anymore. This is an issue that Rise for Animals is passionate about, and we plan to continue exposing labs like Columbia University Medical Center when they obviously don’t value the lives of the animals they’re responsible for.

We hope you’ll help. Send Columbia University Medical Center a demand today.

Please join us and ask Columbia University Medical Center to count, disclose, and reduce the number of animals they use in their lab.

Columbia University Medical Center is too irresponsible with the lives of animals. It’s time for them to phase out animal-based testing!

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