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May 21, 2007

Chickens, mice die in Purdue lab after climate control malfunction

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University officials have reported that 75 chickens and four mice died from heat stress after a climate control system malfunctioned and caused temperatures in a laboratory area to rise.

The animal deaths occurred in a Department of Animal Sciences facility in the Life Sciences Annex building. When animal care staff arrived at the facility at 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday (May 15), they found temperatures to be unusually high – up to 95 degrees in some rooms, said William Ferner, a veterinarian and director of Purdue's Animal Laboratory Program.

Ferner said the employees took action to increase air circulation in the facility and cool the animals and that an on-call veterinarian was notified. Physical facilities employees were able to correct the problem, which was an air line break that caused the climate control system to activate the facility's heating unit. Animal care staff and the veterinarian were able to successfully treat several other animals that were housed in the lab at the time of the incident, Ferner said.

A memo detailing the incident was sent to the university's Office of the Vice President for Research and will be forwarded to the National Institutes of Health's Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare.

"The animal care and use program is dedicated to the welfare of our animals," he said. "In March we began installing an alarm system in all of our facilities housing animals that will help avoid this type of incident."

The system will be used to automatically alert staff if there are any power losses or malfunctions in climate control equipment. While the system is not yet fully functional, alarms have been installed in all but two campus areas that house animals, and the alarms are expected to be in place and fully operational in June, Ferner said.

Writer: Brian Zink (765) 494-2080,

Source: William Ferner, (765) 494-9128,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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