An animal rights group filed a complaint Friday with the U.S. Department of Agriculture against the University of Nevada, Reno for the death of three sheep that died of thirst. The animals needlessly died because workers got lazy and falsified reports saying they had checked the watering troughs in the animals’ pen, when they had not.
Stop Animal Exploitation Now filed the complaint with the USDA. The group is calling for UNR to be fined for the maximum amount possible and would like to see more justice for the sheep, but under federal law the incident doesn’t carry any criminal charges.
Michael Budkie, executive director of SAEN said, “There is no criminal aspect to the federal law. The only entity that can be penalized is the university itself, and we believe it is important they receive as many citations as possible because the maximum monetary penalty is $10,000 per infraction.”
The death of the animals occurred in September 2011, but the USDA investigation was only completed and filed last month.
The report concluded that 10 sheep, kept in a pen at UNR’s Main Station Field Laboratory “had not been given water for five days.”
“Three of the 10 animals in the pen expired,” the USDA stated. “One was found expired and, during treatment, two others expired.”
“The caretakers were not going into the pens to physically observe the waterers. They were recording that they had gone into the pens and observed the waterers,” the report said. “However, they had not actually done that. They were terminated as a result of the findings of the facility.”
UNR President Marc Johnson said, “This was an incredibly disappointing incident and we take this very seriously. We have adopted a zero-tolerance position, and our personnel actions and operational changes reflect this stance.”
To prevent a similar tragedy from happening again, the university has moved the animal record keeping files from outside the pen, to inside where the sheep are located. That way, caretakers are forced to walk past the watering troughs to reach the reports. The paperwork had been kept outside the pen because animals could eat or damage it, but aluminum containers now protect the files.
UNR has also added their “zero-tolerance” policy statement in the employee handbook and increased animal care training to workers.
This is not the first report of animal deaths, mistreatment or neglect at UNR. In 2002, 45 pregnant sheep died after being left without food or water for four days. The university also received fines for 46 violations of animal welfare regulations that occurred between May 2004 and March 2005.
Dying of thirst as the sheep did, is a very uncomfortable way to end a life. Without water, the body gradually dehydrates, affecting organs, blood pressure and breathing. Finally the kidneys fail, blood thickens and the animal falls into a coma. Several days of suffering occur before the process is complete.
TAKE ACTION: Please sign the petition, Justice For Three Sheep That Died Of Thirst At UNR
Photo Credit: MarilynJane