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In June, the Max Planck Florida Institute opened a 100,000 sq. ft. biomedical research facility in Jupiter, created with $188 million in state and local funds. It’s the Germany-based institute’s only facility in the United States.

Less than two months after employees moved into the new labs, a routine inspection by the United States Department of Agriculture found a number of violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The most serious violations most likely occurred in the laboratory of Max Planck CEO and Scientific Director David Fitzpatrick (read more about Dr. Fitzpatrick below).

According to the USDA inspection report, in June 2012, for reasons that are unclear, the attending veterinarian at Max Planck was instructed to perform his duties from “a remote, off site location.” Due to this restriction, the veterinarian was unable to review surgical procedures and oversee the care of animals. The report noted, “At least 2 adverse animal incidents have occurred since the restriction was instituted; a dystocia [abnormal or difficult birth] which resulted in euthanasia of an animal and a severe thermal burn which occurred during a surgical procedure. Neither animal was personally evaluated by the veterinarian.” The burn occurred on July 3; a ferret “sustained a severe thermal burn on the abdomen during surgery” because a heating pad “wasn’t properly insulated.” Max Planck was cited for providing inadequate veterinary care and for animal handling that resulted in physical harm or trauma.

The USDA also found that oversight of studies involving animals continues to be a problem at Max Planck (inadequate review of research protocols was noted during inspections in August and May 2012).

You Can Help
The USDA report indicates serious management problems at Max Planck. Please join ARFF in calling on the Board of Trustees of Max Planck Florida Institute to remove David Fitzpatrick as CEO.

Sample text (it’s best to use your own words):

“Dear Board of Trustees of Max Planck Florida Institute:
In August 2012, the Max Planck Florida Institute was cited by federal regulators for disturbing violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The head veterinarian at Max Planck was prevented from doing his job and animals suffered as a result. The most serious violations occurred in the laboratory of CEO and Scientific Director David Fitzpatrick. I am concerned that Dr. Fitzpatrick may be unable to meet his ethical and legal obligations to ensure the welfare of animals at Max Planck. I urge the Board of Trustees to reconsider the appropriateness of David Fitzpatrick continuing as CEO and Scientific Director.”

Send to:

Dr. Peter Gruss, President of the Max Planck Society
Chairman, Board of Trustees of Max Planck Florida Institute
Email: peter.gruss@gv.mpg.de, post@gv.mpg.de

Please send a copy of your email to Max Planck’s partners in Florida:

Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners
Email: BCC-AllCommissioners@pbcgov.org

Town of Jupiter Council
Email: towncouncil@jupiter.fl.us

Dr. Gary Perry, Dean
Charles E. Schmidt College of Science at Florida Atlantic University
Email: perry@fau.edu


David Fitzpatrick is a neuroscientist who studies brain structure and functions such as vision. Sadly, since the early 1980s, his research has used monkeys, tree shrews and ferrets in invasive tests. A study published in The Journal of Neuroscience in 2011 is typical of research in the Fitzpatrick lab at the Max Planck Florida Institute. The experiment began by placing a ferret in a stereotaxic device and cutting open the animal’s skull to access the brain. The animal was also given a paralyzing drug to prevent eye movements.

The experiment was undoubtedly a terrifying experience for the animal, but the use of muscle relaxants or other paralyzing drugs is of particular concern. An animal may feel pain, but be unable to move. It can be difficult for researchers/technicians to make sure a paralyzed animal is receiving an adequate amount of anesthesia.

The future of neurological research should be noninvasive human studies, NOT invasive animal tests.

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