The federal government rebuked the treatment of test animals and the conditions at a chemical lab once owned and operated by Shri Thanedar, a top Democratic candidate for governor of Michigan.
The assessment in a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection report contradicts Thanedar’s multiple public statements that the lab never harmed the animals and always followed federal guidelines.
Thanedar, a wealthy businessman, has been weathering accusations of animal neglect after HuffPost reported in April that animal welfare groups had to rescue over 170 dogs and monkeys months after his Oxford, New Jersey, facility shut down in 2010.
HuffPost subsequently revealed that contrary to Thanedar’s claims, he fought to sell the animals to new labs, rather than secure new homes for them in animal sanctuaries as a court-appointed receiver had ordered.
Now, the 2009 USDA inspection report obtained by HuffPost shows that Thanedar’s lab, AniClin Preclinical Services, was admonished to correct several violations of federal rules for the treatment of test animals.
The USDA identified “deficiencies” in the lab’s conditions for the test monkeys, including enclosures that were too small and faced a wall, preventing the monkeys from seeing one another. Social interaction is essential for monkeys’ “psychological well-being,” according to the USDA.
“There were six individually-housed nonhuman primates in room 6B, whose enclosures were facing the wall and [the primates] could not see other nonhuman primates,” the USDA report said.
The report also found “evidence” that the monkey’s enclosures previously contained mounted mirrors allowing them to see one another, but that those mirrors were no longer present.
“The mirrors need to be replaced or these animals need to be moved to different enclosures to allow them to see other nonhuman primates,” the USDA advised.
Although it is not clear if the conditions in the enclosures were to blame, the USDA also said AniClin needed to do a better job attending to the needs of two monkeys suffering from alopecia, or stress-related hair loss.
In addition, the USDA detailed other infractions at the lab, including expired medication for the animals and the “disrepair” of its facilities.
Damage to the door leading to the space where the animals’ food and bedding were stored “needs to be addressed to eliminate a living/breeding ground for rodents and pests inside the door,” the USDA said.
In a statement to HuffPost, Thanedar argued that the USDA citations were the exception rather than the rule at his facility.
“Nearly 10 years ago, when I owned several medical research companies that performed mandatory testing on animals prior to human clinical testing, we consistently maintained valid certifications from multiple agencies throughout the entire period of my ownership,” Thanedar said. “Most inspections resulted in no citation and in the few instances where an issue was raised, it was immediately rectified with corrective action well within the timeframe given to us by the agency.”
But the USDA report, issued less than a year before the test animals were rescued from the then-shuttered facility, contradicts Thanedar’s earlier assurances that the animals always received treatment consistent with federal regulations.
“No animals were ever harmed, and we went to great lengths to exceed the necessary guidelines as outlined by the FDA,” Thanedar told The Detroit Free Press in late April.
Thanedar said much the same in an interview with The Detroit Metro Times earlier this month.
“At no time while I was in control of those companies were animals mistreated in any way,” he said. “In fact, we went above and beyond protocols outlined by the FDA to ensure the animals were never harmed.”
A spokesman for Thanedar did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the apparent inconsistency of these claims with the conditions documented by the USDA.
Thanedar is locked in a contentious three-way Democratic gubernatorial primary with Gretchen Whitmer, the party’s former state Senate leader, and Abdul El-Sayed, a physician and former Detroit health director.
Thanedar held a small lead over Whitmer in an April poll conducted prior to HuffPost’s report about the rescue of the test animals.
Four Republicans are vying for their party’s nomination to succeed GOP Gov. Rick Snyder, who is term-limited.
The primary is scheduled for Aug. 7.
Controversy surrounds others aspects of Thanedar’s business history. An over-the-counter male enhancement supplement, S.W.A.G., that Thanedar’s company Avomeen tested in 2013 was later revealed to contain the prescription drug Viagra. An employee told The Detroit News in March that he had notified Thanedar of that finding, but that Thanedar did not report it to the Food and Drug Administration.
The employee notified the FDA on his own. Thanedar claimed it was his company’s obligation to test drugs and inform his clients about rule violations, but not to inform the federal government about client misconduct.