Wednesday, October 18, 2006

OHSU to release records to animal rights group

Oregon Daily Emerald

In brief

By: William McCall | The Associated Press |

Issue date: 10/18/06 Section: News

PORTLAND, Ore. - After a five-year court battle, Oregon Health & Science University has agreed to release more than 113,000 pages of animal care records to In Defense of Animals, officials said Tuesday.

The legal dispute over records on the treatment of monkeys at the Oregon National Primate Research Center, which is managed by OHSU, began with a lawsuit filed in 2001.

Last year, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that an OHSU plan to charge more than $150,000 to provide the records was excessive, resulting in the agreement announced Tuesday, according to the group and OHSU.

The agreement was welcomed by the animal rights group, which said the battle began eight years ago with a request for the records.

"Had OHSU been willing to do in 1998 what it has agreed to today, years of litigation could have been avoided," said David Bahr, attorney for In Defense of Animals.

But the university said it had to move carefully to redact - black out - names of researchers in order to avoid potential threats by animal rights extremists, officials said.

Matt Rossell, Northwest spokesman for In Defense of Animals, said IDA never challenged the effort to protect researchers, and accused OHSU of using it as an excuse to delay the release of the records.

"What I've found in my work challenging animal research is that is their standard response to anything because they want to distract the public about any concerns they might have about the legitimacy of the research or the condition of the animals," Rossell said.

He said the university had insisted it would require a researcher to go through every page of the documents to black out names when those names could have been listed and eliminated by a computer program.

"We're glad they have finally released the documents," Rossell said, "but the public has been kept in the dark for a really long time."

He said the animal rights group expects the documents to show some animals have been mistreated.

OHSU officials, however, said the documents confirm what they have said all along - the university and the primate center meet all federal laws and regulations.

They also accused Rossell, who worked briefly at the primate center from 1998 to 2000, of being a "spy" for animal rights activists.

"While we support IDA's right to obtain public records, we also think the public has the right to a non-biased, truthful portrayal of their contents," said Susan Smith, director of the OHSU primate center.

Laura Ireland Moore, executive director of the National Center for Animal Law at Lewis & Clark Law School, said legal protection for animals has improved over the years but enforcement remains a problem.

"Most of the laws are not adequate and even the ones we do have are certainly not adequately enforced," Moore said.

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