The University of Southern California (USC) is abusing animals, primarily rats and mice, within its laboratories according to a lawsuit filed this month in the California Superior Court. Animal advocacy firm Advancing Law for Animals (ALA) filed the lawsuit on behalf of plaintiff Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN) which alleges, amongst other things, that USC disposed of 24 baby animals by placing them in a carcass-disposal freezer while still alive; performed unauthorized surgeries and injections on animals, including unapproved cranial implantation surgery without documented analgesia; withheld post-operative care from animals, including pain killers and suture removal; and failed to euthanize animals with ulcerated tumors in a timely manner. 

In April, SAEN Executive Director Michael A. Budkie sent a letter to the USC Board of Trustees and Interim President Wanda M. Austin outlining abuse SAEN discovered through correspondence between USC and the National Institute of Health Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW)—documents that were not intended for public view. Budkie asked USC to launch an internal investigation into the numerous instances of animal abuse SAEN discovered, including one when a rat woke up to see his/her own open chest cavity during an operation. “This is a description of multiple incidents of clear and unadulterated negligence that must be punished,” Budkie wrote. “The staff involved in these incidents should never be allowed to work with animals again, and all of these projects should be permanently terminated.” USC responded to Budkie’s letter stating that it had taken proper measures to report the incidents to OLAW and explained that OLAW approved the corrective actions it took to remedy the instances of animal abuse SAEN cited. 

“USC advertises that it achieves the highest ethical standards in its research. But documents not intended for public view show that USC routinely violates its mandatory research protocols, as well as applicable animal welfare laws and regulations,” SAEN said in the lawsuit. “These practices find no refuge under the guise of research, nor does the banner of science provide a free pass for all manner of abuse.” SAEN lists unlawful business practices and false advertising as causes of action and seeks a court order to stop USC’s disregard for animal welfare, a practice which, the lawsuit alleges, reduces USC’s expenses, therefore giving the university an advantage over competitors, including other research institutions, amounting to violations of California’s Unfair Competition Law. “As a USC graduate, I am disheartened to see my alma mater at the center of another scandal,” Vanessa Shakib, one of the Plaintiff attorneys on record and Co-Director of ALA, said. 

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