April 01, 2016


 Veterinarian alleges retaliation for reporting mistreatment

​Posted March 16, 2016

A veterinarian claims he was wrongly fired from a job overseeing research animal care after he reported animal welfare violations and refused to participate in misleading budget activity. 

Dr. Brian E. Gordon filed a federal lawsuit against the University of Texas Medical Branch, where he had worked as executive director of the Animal Resources Center and attending veterinarian from March 2013 to June 2015. He alleges that the institution fired him in retaliation for reporting violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act to the UTMB’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. 

He alleges that the firing also was a response to his refusals to support violations of federal and state laws governing animal treatment, to mislead authorities in charge of ensuring compliance with federal laws, and to mischaracterize animal care costs as higher than reality to secure a higher reimbursement rate from the federal government. The complaint accuses university officials of defaming him with false statements to an unnamed science editor after his firing.

A UTMB spokeswoman declined to comment on the pending litigation, and the university had not filed a response to the court by press time.

Dr. Gordon’s complaint indicates in part that UTMB researchers failed to report when eight of 12 monkeys experimentally infected with Marburg virus died, even though the research protocol called for euthanasia of the animals if they became gravely ill. Once he learned about the deaths, he told IACUC members the deaths had occurred and UTMB had violated the Animal Welfare Act, the document states. 

He also alleges that superiors denied him and IACUC members access to audit results from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which funded the Marburg research.

Among other findings, the NIAID audit report states that clear signs of decline before the monkeys died should have prompted increased observation.

Dr. Gordon’s complaint indicates that, after he was told of his pending termination last June, he told the IACUC chair in a phone conversation that UTMB deficiencies jeopardized animal care and were illegal. And he filed a complaint with the Department of Agriculture in September 2015, the document states.