Superstorm Sandy… a setback for science

It was with great sadness I read the news last week of the devastation that Hurricane Sandy caused by ripping through the East Coast of USA. I was horrified to read about the thousands of mice that drowned at New York University. I know this is immaterial compared to the human lives effected by Sandy but this event resulted in a major set back for science. Reports suggest almost 8000 cage of mice were killed when the basement of the university was flooded when Sandy engulfed New York. I think the biggest issue is to understand why so many animals were kept in a basement in a flood zone. This seems absurd. What make it more absurd is that this has happened before, during Hurricane Allison and Hurricane Katrina. Surely following any incident like this something should be done to prevent this reoccurring. Is it time that regulations are put in place to prevent this from happening again in the future? Shouldn’t this be a vital part of the animal care guidelines issued by the National Institue of Health. I hope some lessons are finally learnt from this event and a similar scenario doesn’t occur again in the future.

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2 thoughts on “Superstorm Sandy… a setback for science

  1. More regulation will not prevent this from happening because the animals are in the basement for a very good reason: Security. All of us that work in research do so under extensive security such as multiple card locked doors, keyed door, restricted access areas and any number of other ways to keep unauthorized people out. Why? Because of animal rights activists. If we were not under constant attack then I should think we might entertain the idea of housing animals elsewhere.

    That is until we look at the one other big reason we house animals there: We can control the temperature and light cycles much better. To keep our animals healthy and happy we remove them from any harsh temperature changes that being above ground may have. We also control their exposure to light to keep it consistent, something I would like myself! Our animals and staff work in the basements for a number of other reasons as well but believe me, they are good ones. The last time worked somewhere that had a window was nearly 10 years ago and while I miss the sun in the winter, it sure is nice to always have a clean, warm place to work. =)

    To be sure this was a huge tragedy and a major set back for everyone who’s studies were/are effected. But more regulation is not what we need.

  2. Thank you for your comment. Yes, I totally understand how placing animals in the basement is done for security reasons and the health of the animal. However, I have worked in several animal units, only one was in the basement. Although it may not be as easy, it is possible to house animals elsewhere in the building with a bit of thought and design. Perhaps regulation is too strong but at least some guidelines would potentially prevent this from happening again. I understand Sandy was an extreme event but surely the potential of flooding had been assessed in the institute and an evacuation plan put in place, it just seems incomprehensible how many animals were not saved. It is such a tragedy which I hope will never happen again!

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