UA Fairbanks to Pay $127,100 Fine Over Musk Oxen Deaths


The University of Alaska Fairbanks has agreed to pay a fine of $127,100 over musk oxen deaths at the school's Large Animal Research Station. Twelve musk oxen (a third of the herd), died or were euthanized between August 2010 and February 2011 at the Yankovich Road research station.

In March, the U.S. Department of Agriculture accused the University of failing to provide sufficient amount of nutrients to the animals. According to the USDA's 2011 investigation, the dead musk oxen had deficits of essential minerals like copper and cobalt.

The federal agency also blamed the University for injuries sustained by a student at a moose enclosure in 2011 and failure to release a reindeer after its antlers got caught up in wire.

Although the University agreed to the settlement, the University did not admit to the violations listed by the USDA.

Following allegations of animal cruelty, the University implemented enhanced prevention measures including modifications of nutritional supplements for animals. John Blake, Attending Veterinarian at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said that USDA recognised their efforts and gave the facility a clean bill of health in 2012.

Blake said that the station did make errors with respect to records management and increased dependence on student workers. However, he rejected USDA's accusation that the musk oxen died of "starvation" by saying that the animals had access to hay. Blake said that nutrient deficiency is what caused the animal's deaths.

He also objected to the allegation that the university did not provide adequate treatments to the oxen. Blake said that a veterinarian from Washington was consulted in September 2010 and the same medical personnel paid a visit to the site in October.

"We had been working on these animals quite a bit. The implication that we had not been providing adequate veterinary care until February 2011 was a little hard to swallow," Blake said, Newsminer reports.

Michael Budkie - an anti-animal experimentation advocate from Milford, Ohio - welcomed the settlement.

"I think this is one of the more appropriate fines we've seen in recent years," Budkie said. "They (USDA regulators) have escalated their fines to the level that, at least in this instance, and we hope in others, it is going to be sufficient to compel laboratories to change the way they're treating animals."

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