Johns Hopkins Labs Escape Liability for Animal Fatalities

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Universities across the country are getting away with murder, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is their accomplice.

NIH is charged with policing the animal experimentation facilities that it funds with nearly $20 billion in taxpayer money each year. But it has failed to adequately address a string of alarming welfare violations at Johns Hopkins University, including the recent deaths of a dog and a rabbit, as well as repeated incidents of noncompliance at various other NIH-funded institutions. So PETA is going over the agency’s head and calling on the Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to investigate the NIH Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare’s (OLAW) incompetent investigations and resolutions.

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Earlier this year, PETA filed a complaint with NIH after we obtained a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspection report detailing that a dog in a Johns Hopkins laboratory had died of cardiac arrest because of an improper injection of potassium chloride. NIH opened an investigation but only gave the school a slap on the wrist for not reporting the incompetence.

The agency then closed the case. Nothing to see here, folks.

Experimenters imprison nearly 65,000 dogs in U.S. laboratories each year.

Not long afterward, Johns Hopkins experimenters allowed a rabbit to become emaciated after subjecting the animal to a tumor implantation procedure. They failed to document the most basic markers of distress, including poor appetite, so the rabbit received no follow-up veterinary care.

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By the time negligent staff realized that the rabbit was ill, the animal had become too sick and was euthanized.

Federal inspectors slapped the university with another violation, PETA filed another complaint, and NIH opened another investigation. Inexplicably, Johns Hopkins responded to NIH with a report about the dog in the previous incident, not the rabbit. Shockingly, the agency closed the case without bothering to verify the accuracy of the school’s response—or perhaps without bothering to even read it.

Again, nothing to see here and no consequences imposed on the university.

Close up of a white rabbit with green background

PETA hasn’t taken NIH’s inaction lightly:

The failure by NIH to level consequences for critical violations of federal law documented by the USDA is deeply concerning and allows institutions like Johns Hopkins to continue endangering animals with impunity at taxpayers’ expense. PETA is calling on the inspector general to investigate these serious matters along with the disturbing pattern of cruelty to animals at Johns Hopkins and to take meaningful corrective action.

—Shalin Gala, PETA vice president of international laboratory methods

overweight monkey with alopecia holding her baby as they endure imprisonment in a Johns Hopkins laboratory
This monkey imprisoned in a Johns Hopkins laboratory is overweight and has severe alopecia. Federal inspectors discovered that the university had no plan to treat either problem—a violation of animal welfare regulations. Instead, experimenters simply left her to suffer in a barren cage with her baby.

OLAW Fails to Prevent Repeat Negligence at NIH-Funded Institutions

Between 2020 and 2023, multiple unsettling incidents came to light at prominent NIH-financed universities—the University of California–Los Angeles (UCLA), the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Wisconsin–Madison—all leading to the painful deaths of countless animals.

In five separate instances at UW-Madison and over 30 separate violations at the University of Pittsburgh, mice suffered agonizing deaths in which they were starved of food and water. Shockingly, OLAW’s acceptance of weak assurances paved the way for a recurring nightmare. Meanwhile at UCLA, a chilling tale played out in which live mice and rats were improperly euthanized and placed alongside deceased animals in freezers, likely causing their prolonged suffering.

At the Washington National Primate Research Center, OLAW ignored shocking infant mortality rates and critical biosecurity issues. At the Cleveland Clinic, animals suffered while OLAW simply waved through the institution’s Standard Operating Procedures as a cure-all. As a result, animals paid a heavy price for the institutions’ negligent rule-breaking and OLAW’s nonchalance.

And then there’s Johns Hopkins.

Johns Hopkins Labs Have a Horrific History of Abusing Animals

Johns Hopkins has a lengthy and ever-growing rap sheet of violating animal welfare guidelines, including for Shreesh Mysore’s notorious NIH-funded brain-scrambling studies on owls, which violated Maryland law for at least seven years. The school’s laboratories were previously cited by the USDA for failing to give animals pain relief, using expired drugs, not reporting animals’ broken bones, and failing to maintain sterile areas—all in violation of basic federal animal protection requirements.

Despite this, NIH has lavished Johns Hopkins with more than $1.1 billion in federal taxpayer funds since 2022—more than any other university in the country.

Enough is enough. We’re asking the inspector general to investigate NIH’s brazen refusal to hold Johns Hopkins accountable for incompetence and neglect and to compel the agency to impose meaningful punishments on the university for these deaths.

an owl imprisoned at a Johns Hopkins lab for Shreesh Mysore's horrific experiments
This owl is one of many imprisoned in Shreesh Mysore’s laboratory, where he cuts into their skulls and screws metal devices onto their heads in curiosity-driven experiments that are irrelevant to human health.

What You Can Do

Please urge Johns Hopkins to pull the plug on all its worthless and deadly animal experiments:

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