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Biotech firm to pay $3.5M fine to settle animal-abuse case

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. >> One of the world’s largest suppliers of antibodies used in research has agreed to pay a $3.5 million fine and cancel its research registration in order to settle government allegations that it mistreated goats and rabbits at its Santa Cruz, California, facility.

The settlement between Santa Cruz Biotechnology Inc. and the U.S. Department of Agriculture also revokes the company’s license to sell, buy, trade or import animals.

The settlement announced Friday requires the Dallas-based company to pay the fine and cancel its research registration by May 31.

The USDA filed several complaints that listed violations ranging from failing to provide veterinary care to goats with wounds from coyote and snake bites or massive tumors and housing rabbits in cruel conditions, including putting them in elevated cages with open doors or in small, crowded cages.

Santa Cruz Biotechnology contested the government complaints, and the agreement says that the company “neither admits nor denies” the USDA’s assertions that it violated federal animal-welfare regulations.

The company did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Animal Welfare Institute, an advocacy group, praised the settlement, saying the $3.5 million fine is historic.

“Previously, the highest penalties paid to the USDA were less than $300,000, demonstrating the monumental nature of this settlement,” said Cathy Liss, president of the institute. “It should serve as a loud and clear message to all research facilities, animal dealers, exhibitors and airlines regulated under this law.”

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