Animal Rights Group Trolls Research Facility Reports
CSU Latest Target By Group Thriving on Click-Bait
Colorado State University’s Foothills Campus hosts the Animal Reproduction and Biotechnology Laboratory, devoted to finding solutions for problems related to animal production and human health. The lab’s focus on reproductive sciences and biotechnologies helps to manage fertility in both animals and humans. Numerous research projects on the campus use sheep in their research models, and the sheep are housed on site.
Unfortunately, the CSU campus recently experienced something common to most (if not all) domestic sheep flocks: predation by a wild carnivore. The depredation on domestic sheep occurred at the CSU facility despite the fact that it houses the animals within a 10-foot-tall “no climb” perimeter fence of its two-acre paddock. The CSU facility had 8 sheep killed or euthanized due to predation between Oct. 19 and Nov. 23, 2020, and then four more sheep before the end of the year. It appears that the predation was caused by a bobcat and a mountain lion. Efforts to trap the problem predators were not successful. Although the fence is 10’ high, the gate to the facility is only six feet high.
Because this is a research facility, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service conducts inspections to ensure compliance with Animal Welfare Act standards. A January 2021 inspection found: “The perimeter fence has not restricted animals from entering the facility multiple times and killing sheep. An effective perimeter fence protects the animals within from any outside animals that could cause injury or death. Perimeter fences are not required for domesticated farm-type animals, such as sheep, as long as the facility has effective security measures in place. These multiple predation incidents indicate that security measures are not effective to protect the animals from harm.
“The perimeter fence must be of sufficient height and constructed in a way that protects the animals within by restricting predators from entering the facility. Security measures used must be effective in protecting the animals. A corrective plan with a reasonable timeline for completion must be developed.”
CSU reportedly installed a predator-deterrence light-and-sound system, and the depredations stopped.
But now an animal rights group based in Ohio called Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN) has gleaned onto the inspection report to file an official complaint with APHIS, requesting that CSU be issued the maximum of $10,000 per animal per infraction of the Animal Welfare Act standards. With 12 dead sheep, that would be at least $120,000 for a single infraction.
SAEN apparently trolls APHIS inspection records (which are published online) and routinely sends letters demanding APHIS impose maximum fines for animal deaths and illnesses at research facilities around the country, with the goal of generating media attention. Last year the same group filed a complaint against Washington State University for failing to euthanize two bighorn sheep involved in hemorrhagic pneumonia research. The two animals developed rapid onset of severe illness and died before they could be euthanized, for which SAEN requested the maximum fine of $10,000 per animal. The maximum-fine letter of complaint appears to be SAEN’s modus operandi.
SAEN’s strategy has been to release USDA inspection reports along with press releases or official letters of complaint to generate media attention, “sullying these labs’ reputations to sour public opinion of animal research overall,” according to SAEN’s summer 2019 newsletter. They’ve recently added a few other techniques, such as accepting information from a whistleblower, and in 2019 filing its first lawsuit. But SAEN touts its crowning achievement as “influencing public opinion through hundreds of extensive media articles.” That’s its specialty, and website is filled with media coverage of its complaints – without much reporting on how its complaints are resolved, or even the accuracy of its allegations. SAEN is a low-budget enterprise primarily operated by a husband and wife who are able to generate headlines, and in turn generate revenue for their organization from people who are appalled at all the “animal exploitation” it exposes.
According to SAEN’s tax records filed with the Internal Revenue Service, this nonprofit organization received its tax-exempt status in May 1997. In the 24 years since founding SAEN, the husband-wife team of Michael and Karen Budkie used SAEN to fundraise for their advocacy. SAEN’s 2001 tax record shows the organization had income and expenses of around $40,000, ending the year with about $10,000 in assets. Michael Budkie serves as the paid executive director of the organization. SAEN has a three-member board, on which Michael also serves, as he has since its inception. Karen Budkie served on the board at its founding, according to Ohio Secretary of State records, but by 2001, Karen Budkie went off the board and was replaced by Mark Kelso, who continues to serve on the board today. The third board member at founding was John E Bigane III, but IRS records indicate Bigane was replaced in 2007 with D. Dorothea Zivkovic.
The 3-member SAEN board now consists of Michael Budkie, Kelso, and Zivkovic. From that $10,000 cash carryover in 2001, the organization has now amassed nearly $1 million (according to its 2018 tax report), while funding salaries and compensation for the Budkies. The buildup of funds really kicked into gear in 2001, when the group reported about $77K in expenses, but raked in $330K in revenue, leaving it with a pot of $332,000 at the end of the year.
In each of the following years, with one exception (2014, in which it spent $6,500 more than it brought in with revenue), SAEN has managed to end the year with at least $25K in net income added to its coffers. In 2017, the organization generated $221K more than it spent on its activities.
By the end of 2018, SAEN’s assets totaled more than $932,000. Not bad for an organization that appears to have two employees, and which measures its success by citing the number of news stories it generates with its complaints and demands for maximum fines.