PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A small group of animal lovers staged a low-key demonstration at Penn, today, to call attention to a complaint the USDA filed against the University’s research labs.

About ten people held signs criticizing animal mistreatment at Penn — not as part of research but by the conditions they live in at the labs. Michael Budkie, founder of the Ohio-based group, Stop Animal Exploitation Now, says Penn was one of a very few research labs in the country to be cited for neglect that made animals sick and in some cases, killed them.

Michael Budkie says an August warning from the USDA cited algae-covered water bowls among other violations, “There are over 1,100 research facilities in the United States and there are, every year, only a few dozen that actually receive official warnings, so that puts the University of Pennsylvania among the worst violators of the animal welfare act.”

“Gerbils did not have water for several days and died of dehydration, a new born puppy got caught under the floor grating of an enclosure and died. All of these things happen without the University of Pennsylvania staff even noticing they were going on.”

Budkie says he’s suspicious of the value of the science coming from such oblivious researchers. In a written statement, Penn defended its animal care and said it is continually working to improve it.

Reported by Pat Loeb, KYW Newsradio 1060