Suzanne Potter / California News Service
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. – A biotech firm with facilities in California will pay $3.5 million in a settlement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for violating the federal Animal Welfare Act.
Santa Cruz Biotechnology has admitted no wrongdoing, but will lose its dealer’s license and registration as a laboratory. This means it can no longer conduct research with animals, such as goats and rabbits, that are protected under federal law.
Matthew Liebman, chief legal counsel for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, says the alleged violations were discovered during routine federal inspections, and mainly involve denying proper veterinary care.
“There are cases of animals with coyote bites left untreated. There was an animal with a baseball-sized tumor on her neck that was untreated,” says Liebman. “There were animals who Santa Cruz Biotechnology’s own veterinarian had recommended for euthanasia, yet the facility kept them alive and continued to draw blood from them.”
Santa Cruz Biotechnology did not respond to a request for comment.
According to Liebman, the groundbreaking fine is 10 times the amount of any previous animal-cruelty sanction. He says the company, as part of its operations, injects animals with proteins or disease so they produce antibodies, then sells the antibody-laden blood for use in scientific research.
Liebman says his organization had sued the company in state court, but that suit was dismissed because of the federal investigation. He says now, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is appealing that dismissal.
“They’re still free to produce antibodies using mice and rats and other animals that aren’t covered under federal law, and cause them immense suffering. So, under state law, that conduct would be cruel,” says Liebman. “So, our argument is that our lawsuit ought to be reinstated so that those animals who aren’t protected by federal law still receive the benefit of state law.”
According to the settlement, Santa Cruz Biotechnology was also accused of lying to investigators about the existence of a barn that housed animals for experimentation.
The company reported owning more than 9,000 animals in 2014, and almost twice that number in 2011.