Planck Institute Clams Up on Animal Welfare: "Reputation Speaks for Itself"

Categories: Broward News
We're not sure which phrase best describes the Max Planck Institute's response to our questions about its treatment of the hundreds of animals it holds captive and on whose nervous systems it experiments. Perhaps "Nothing to see here. Move along." Or "We ask the questions." We're not happy with either.

See also:
- Feds Cite Planck Institute Over Animal Welfare

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The Jupiter neuroscience lab, which was lured to Palm Beach County in 2008 with the use of $94 million in public funds, was cited by federal authorities last year for animal welfare violations.

In May, the USDA warned the institute about its hiring procedures, finding inadequate review of the qualifications of staff hired to perform surgery and euthanasia.

In August, the agency found multiple problems, including failure to allow the institute's attending veterinarian "appropriate authority" to "ensure the provision of adequate animal care."

The August report stated that the veterinarian "indicated that frequent animal updates were only provided regarding a small portion of the total animal population" and that "he has been unable to personally review surgical procedures" and was "unable to adequately oversee proper performance of these procedures and related surgical care."

In a series of emails about the USDA citations, institute representatives offered limited responses to New Times queries, then drew the curtain.

Initially, regarding veterinary care, Planck Chief Operations Officer Ivan Baines stated: "The Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience maintains the highest level of veterinary care at all times. The Animal Welfare Act does not require facilities to have a veterinarian on-site at all times. We employ an attending veterinarian plus a back-up veterinarian to ensure that animals receive needed care and treatment at any time of day or night, seven days per week."

We replied that Baines failed to address the attending vet's allegations. We asked if the allegations were true or not. We asked if, in the case the allegations were false, the vet had been fired. And, if the allegations were true, what had been done to correct them.

We also asked for comment on the claims of local animal welfare activists that 1) "two adverse animal incidents" mentioned in the USDA's August report occurred in the laboratory of Planck CEO Dr. David Fitzpatrick and 2) Fitzpatrick "either ordered or approved the removal of the attending veterinarian."

Finally, we asked about guidelines for veterinarians' access to the institute's animals and who set those guidelines.

Baines responded: "We do not agree with the way in which the inspection report is phrased, but don't believe it's appropriate to discuss the details of the issue publicly. We can say that the veterinary staff had access to the animals and facilities as needed and the animals received proper medical care at all times."

Regarding Fitzpatrick and the veterinary staff, he wrote: "we do not engage in public discussions about our scientists or employees."

That only provoked us to email more questions: What "phrase[s]" did they dispute, and why? Why isn't it "appropriate" to discuss publicly details of the issue? Who dictates veterinary staff's access, what constitutes "as needed," and, again, what about the vet's complaints to the USDA?

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frankd4 topcommenter

why do you think it is locating it's american operations in florida ?

fire.ant topcommenter

@frankd4 Because we--you and I, courtesy of our elected representatives--coughed up the dough.

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