Charges against University of Nevada laboratory whistleblower dropped
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2005:
RENO–University of Nevada at Reno president John Lilley on
April 29 informed animal nutrition professor Hussein S. Hussein by
letter that Lilley has accepted the recommendations of a hearing
officer and three-member university panel that misconduct charges
filed against Hussein should be dropped, university spokesperson
Jane Tors announced on May 2.
“After a seven-hour evidentiary hearing on April 19, the
panel and former Carson City District Judge Michael E. Fondi found
the charges groundless,” reported Scott Sonner of Associated Press.
“Lilley said in the April 29 letter to Hussein that he was
accepting their recommendations even though he still believes Hussein
acted inappropriately” in seeking veterinary help during May and June
2004 for 10 boars that he found inexplicably placed in the same barn
as his own research animals,” said Sonner.
Hussein testified that the boars “were copiously foaming at
the mouth, including one who broke out of a pen and chased two of
his graduate students, and he thought they might be rabid or have
other diseases,” wrote Frank X. Mullen Jr. of the Reno
“Hussein told the disciplinary panel that administrators at
UNR’s College of Agriculture would not explain why the pigs were
housed in his research facility or who had responsibility for them,”
“In August, Hussein complained to the USDA about unexplained
deaths and alleged abuse of UNR farm animals. He also has filed two
federal lawsuits against UNR, Lilley, agriculture dean David
Thawley, researcher Esmail Zanjani, and others, accusing them of
retaliating against him for reporting UNR to the USDA,” said Mullen.
Steve Damonte, DVM, and cellular and microbiology Ph.D.
candidate Laurie Bollinger testified in support of Hussein.
Bollinger has also sued UNR for allegedly retaliating against her for
backing Hussein’s claims. Bollinger and two other graduate students
contend that some of their lab work was sabotaged.
Lilley remained critical of Hussein. “The report indicates
that you did, in fact, engage in activities that involved another
researcher’s animals,” Lilley wrote to Hussein. “It is the
responsibility of all members of our institution to respect the
sanctity of each and every research project at the university.
Henceforth, I trust that you will accord the same respect to the
research animals of others as you expect them to respect your
research materials and animals.”
Responded Hussein, “We spent huge amounts of taxpayer
dollars and huge amounts of my own money for a hearing that showed
the charges were groundless. Instead of giving a simple dismissal as
the panel recommended, Lilley is giving me a letter of warning–a
Lilley on April 1 appointed a panel chaired by Nevada State
Board of Agriculture president Benny Romero to investigate further
allegations of UNR abuse and neglect of farm animals used in
research, brought to light by Mullen of the Reno Gazette-Journal.
Other panel members include Nevada Cattlemen’s Associ-ation
vice president Boyd Spratling, Nevada Woolgrowers Association
president Pete Paris, Nevada Farm Bureau executive director Doug
Busselman, and rancher and state senator Dean Rhoads. Their
findings are to be reviewed by University of California at Davis vet
Mullen reported on March 30 that from 2002 until 2004, UNR
sent about 200 female sheep who had been injected with human stem
cells, and whose lambs contained human DNA, to a research ranch
east of Reno for use in weed eradication.
More than 80% were killed by pumas or coyotes, were shot due
to injury by predators, or drowned in the Truckee River while being
chased by wild dogs, said former UNR staff interviewed by Mullen.
“UNR College of Agriculture officials denied that the ewes
used in the stem-cell experiments were sent to the ranch to die,”
Mullen wrote. “But the former ranch manager and others who worked
with the ewes said college officials told them that because the sheep
had been injected with human stem cells, they couldn’t be eaten,
bred, or sold, and therefore had no economic value.
“The former employees said UNR scientists told them the ewes
had human DNA in their bodies, but college officials said the
employees were told that ‘as an extra precaution’ to make sure the
animals remained under UNR control,” Mullen added.
UNR “had incinerated sheep used in the project for 12 years
and didn’t officially change the research animals’ status before
sending them to the weed mitigation experiment,” Mullen continued,
but most of the carcasses of the sheep who died at the ranch were
allegedly left to rot. About 40 were reportedly buried near the
“Researchers have reverted to incinerating the animals’
remains for ‘bio-political’ reasons, they said,” wrote Mullen.
New Iberia case
In a partially parallel case, former New Iberia Research
Center staffer Narriman Fakier in February 2005 sued the University
of Louisi-ana at Lafayette for alleged wrongful dismissal, after
complaining to the USDA about perceived violations of the Animal
A response to the Fakier lawsuit filed in late April by
Louisiana Special Assistant Attorney General Steven Dupuis argues
that Fakier “resigned voluntarily after sending an e-mail to her
supervisor about the relocation of chimpanzees and the threat it
posed to employee safety,” summarized Jeff Moore of The Daily
“Fakier’s suit,” continued Moore, “said she had previously
protested the treatment of animals at the facility, including an
alleged incident where an employee deliberately burned the hands of
several chimpanzees with a lighter and threw a bucket of scalding
water on another. The USDA has launched an investigation into her