The University of California, Berkeley, has joined the ranks of other prestigious institutions facing punishment for the mistreatment of lab animals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is fining the school $8,750 for allowing five lab animals to die of thirst in 2011. The animals died after they were left in a box without water for four days.
The animals involved were voles, a species of small, long-tailed rodent that resembles a mouse. They were used as part of research of circadian rhythms looking at how light affects physiology. The study was one of many at the university -- UC Berkeley performs research on about 100,000 mice each year, in addition to other animals.
"We took very aggressive action to make sure this sort of thing could not occur again," Roger Van Andel, director of the Office of Laboratory Animal Care at UC Berkeley, told The San Francisco Chronicle.
News of the neglect has angered many animal advocates. "While no penalty -- monetary or otherwise -- can undo the unimaginable suffering of the frightened voles who were trapped in their cages as they experienced excruciating pain before their deaths, we hope the fine compels U.C. Berkeley to ensure that it adheres to the minimal animal welfare standards required by law," said Alka Chandna, a lab oversight specialist with PETA.