FARGO - Animal rights advocates have filed a new complaint concerning animal deaths at North Dakota State University including six cows, a horse, a sheep, a vole and a bat.

The amended complaint, filed on Tuesday, July 24, alleges violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act in the deaths of the animals. The complaint was filed by Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!, an advocacy group that earlier this month filed a complaint alleging 11 violations concerning animal deaths at NDSU.

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The deaths, which the advocates claim stemmed from "critical failures," came to light after the group submitted open records requests. The most recent death in the latest complaint was a bat that was discovered dead on July 15 after escaping.

Earlier in July, a cow that was bogged down in mud and water died, presumably from drowning. Other cow deaths include a cow that apparently ate netting around a bale of hay, a cow that ate "hardware," a calf that asphyxiated in a feeding trough and a cow that "went crazy," posing a danger to handlers and equipment, and had to be euthanized.


A horse died in November in a "freak accident" when it apparently tried unexpectedly to jump over a fence instead of running through an open gate.

"He did not clear the panel - he hit it with his chest, legs; then rolled over it ... landing on his side and then hitting his head. He did not get up," Shannon Eck, manager of the NDSU Equine Center, wrote in a memo recording the death.

Eck called the horse's death a "freak accident." "There is nothing we can do to prevent a horse from trying to jump a panel or run in to a panel," she wrote.

A ewe was found dead in September, likely due to suffocation, after a hay bale toppled onto it, according to documents.

The latest death reports bring the total animal death toll at NDSU over the last two years to 46, according to the complaint. The group earlier filed complaints for the deaths, including 11 dead sheep and 17 dead bats.

"North Dakota State University has clearly demonstrated negligence which caused dozens of animal deaths, and these deaths have continued into this very month, it is patently obvious that this facility has no interest in following federal regulations and will only come into compliance if compelled to do so," Michael Budkie, the group's executive director, wrote in a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which enforces the animal welfare law for research animals.

NDSU is working with the USDA to improve its animal research practices and to ensure that staff follow “appropriate animal care standards,” a spokeswoman said.

Neil Dyer, formerly director of the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at NDSU, was hired as the university’s attending veterinarian this spring and is “leading the effort to improve NDSU’s research practices by setting up new standards, communication expectations and training related to the care and use of animals across the institution, ranging from large animal facilities to research laboratories,” said Sadie Rudolph, NDSU’s media coordinator.