Animal rights group sues Sanford Health

SIOUX FALLS, SD (Dakota News Now) — An animal rights watchdog organization has filed a federal complaint seeking an investigation into alleged violations by a Sanford Health researcher.

Stop Animal Exploitation Now filed the complaint with the US Department of Agriculture on Tuesday, according to a statement from the organization.

The complaint stems from a report that Dr Shanta Messereli had her animal use privileges revoked due to “non-compliance events”. The group cited a self-reported document sent by the Sanford Research Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee to the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare.

Messereli is a scientist at Sanford Research. According to Sanford’s report, a non-compliance report was filed against her in January 2021, revoking her ability to use live animals in research. This decision was appealed and Messereli was allowed to conduct animal research again under a “monitoring and management plan”. However, Messereli then faced a subsequent non-compliance report, which led Sanford’s research committee to revoke his ability to work with animals.

The report, signed by David Pearce, president of innovation, research and global clinical practice at Sanford Health, did not provide any details about the nature of the noncompliance reports filed against Messereli. The letter was dated May 2, 2022.

“Animal labs do not prohibit investigators from using animals for minor offenses,” Michael Budkie, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now, said in a statement. “The USDA must thoroughly investigate Sanford Health and punish them severely for all infractions.”

When asked to comment, a Sanford Health spokesperson responded with the following statement:

“Sanford Health is committed to providing high quality healthcare to the patients it serves. Our team of qualified doctors, caregivers and medical researchers adhere to the highest standard of animal care in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act in regards to teaching, research and medical training.

Read the group’s full complaint, as well as Sanford’s self-report to the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, here.

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