Statement on USDA Report

10/23/18

Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences strives to provide exceptional care in overseeing thousands of animals who are helping across multiple research disciplines. Unfortunately, one of these animals – a 563-pound Yorkshire boar — died after an employee left it without shade or water for just over five hours.

The incident was reported to managers in the employee’s chain of command and the employee was terminated with cause. The university apologies to fellow animal care and research teams within Texas A&M who work hard to earn a reputation of excellence, to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and to the public.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service issued a citation to the university for the July 30, 2018 incident, saying the presumed cause of death was heat stroke and that prolonged exposure to direct sunlight and lack of water likely contributed to its death.

While such an incident is an anomaly, as thousands of animals are cared for without incident, there is no excuse for any single occurrence. The university is implementing measures as outlined below to strive to make certain such an incident never happens again. These measures went into effect within 24 hours of the incident:

  • Duties involving the care of other animals at the facility were reassigned and the employee at fault was terminated with cause;
  • The facility’s staff received additional training and reminders on appropriate cleaning procedures to ensure animals are outside of their pens with protective shade and water for an extended period of time;
  • The facility changed its procedures so that pigs are placed in the enrichment pens — these are areas with grass and toys, which they already use in their regimen and now can also protect them from the sun when their pens are being cleaned; and
  • Procedures were changed so that pigs are never left unattended when they are in the enrichment pens to ensure that all animals are returned to their housing pens before care staff leave.

The internal inquiry found that the employee knew the boar to be aggressive and opted to deviate from protocol when he placed the pig in the alleyway without shade or water while cleaning the pen. The employee told investigators that he forgot about the animal, which was discovered by a veterinary technician just after 1 p.m. during a regular health check-up.

It is required not just by the U.S.D.A., but also by Texas A&M animal care guidelines that all animals are given proper shade and water at all times. Employees should have ensured the animal had access to an alternative pen with shade and water while cleaning the dirty pen.

The college was not cited by the U.S.D.A. for animal cruelty or abuse. On the day of the incident, the accidental death was reported by the facility’s director to the attending veterinarian and Texas A&M’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). IACUC oversees the welfare, evaluation and assurance of compliance for the institution when animals are used in research.

The facility’s leadership decided to build shade structures over all existing and newly constructed enrichment pens to ensure pigs have easy access to shade at all times, even when home pens are being cleaned.  Construction of shade structures will be finished by the end of the year. A permanent water source is also being built in each enrichment pen to make certain the pigs will have easy water access when animals are out in the enrichment pens.

Texas A&M remains committed to humane and ethical care in the use animals.

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