USC lawyers dispute animal abuse case

A complaint from Stop Animal Exploitation Now, an animal advocacy organization, towards USC is accusing the university of abusing research animals.

USC lawyers are pushing to dismiss a lawsuit that accuses the university of abusing research animals, mainly rats and mice.

Advancing Law for Animals filed a lawsuit against USC in June 2019 on behalf of Stop Animal Exploitation Now. The advocacy group is accusing the university of “performing unauthorized surgeries and injections on animals, including unapproved cranial implantation surgery without documented analgesia; withholding post-operative care from animals, including pain killers and suture removal; and failing to euthanize animals with ulcerated tumors in a timely manner,” according to City News Service.

USC’s lawyers told Los Angeles County Superior Court that Stop Animal Exploitation Now has no standing to bring forward the complaint “because there was no demonstration that its interests were harmed,” My News LA reported.

Michael A. Budkie, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now, wrote to USC condemning the alleged negligence and asking for punishment of the researchers. In the lawsuit, the organization states “USC advertises that it achieves the highest ethical standards in its research. But documents not intended for public view show that USC routinely violates its mandatory research protocols, as well as applicable animal welfare laws and regulations.”

Stop Animal Exploitation Now alleges that USC’s actions towards animals are in violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law because it “reduces USC’s expenses, therefore giving the university an advantage over competitors, including other research institutions.”

USC lawyers argue that under Proposition 64, which restricts lawsuits against private companies only to individuals who have been directly affected, Stop Animal Exploitation Now’s claim is invalid.

“USC has asked the court to dismiss the case because the plaintiff does not have standing to sue and has not been injured by the alleged conduct. The court is considering arguments and said it will issue a written ruling,” according to a statement from the university.

Vanessa Shakib, a USC alumnus, is the attorney arguing for Stop Animal Exploitation Now.

“The top tier education that I received at USC instilled in me a passion for justice. Justice demands consideration for those without a voice, whether human or nonhuman,” said Shakib, co-director of Advancing Law for Animals, in an interview with Annenberg Media.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dennis Landin ruled on Oct. 31, 2019 that the first complaint from Stop Animal Exploitation Now did not have enough standing in the case to move it forward. The organization filed a second complaint on Nov. 20 after the judge allowed them more time to clarify their argument.

“USC denies the plaintiff’s allegations concerning animal mistreatment. The university is highly committed to the ethical and humane treatment of animals in research, and meets or exceeds all accrediting and regulatory standards,” the university said in a statement.

Shakib responded to those claims by saying that “This lawsuit is not challenging animal experimentation, it’s challenging cruel and abusive conduct irrelevant to any experimentation … Our allegations are legally sufficient, and we expect this litigation to proceed.”

Shakib said she is disappointed in her former university.

“I know that my alma mater can and must do better for animals.”

Judge Landin is deciding on the matter. It is unclear what the next steps are at this moment.