Washington University Continues To Use Cats, Defends Practice, Sparks Outrage From PETA

Categories: Animals, News

via PETA
Inside Wash. U.'s PALS course earlier this year.
Last month, Daily RFT broke the news that Washington University and St. Louis Children's Hospital were discontinuing their controversial practice of using live cats in a joint pediatric advanced life support (PALS) course. Animal-rights activists locally and nationally celebrated the news -- after years of intensifying protests arguing that the use of anesthetized cats is cruel and unnecessary.

There's only one problem: It turns out Wash. U. and Children's Hospital are still using cats in the exact same way -- just in a different training.

"It's disappointing, and frankly, it's not surprising, because they have for the duration of the campaign abused their authority by misleading the public," Justin Goodman, director of laboratory investigations with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, tells Daily RFT.

- Washington University: PETA Goes Undercover to Expose the "Cat Lab" (VIDEO)
- Bob Barker Writes to Washington University: I'll Pay You to Stop Abusing Cats
- Wash. U. Stops Using Live Cats in Training Class After Years of PETA Protests

The news of the continued use of cats comes today in a letter to the editor in the Post-Dispatch.

As some quick background: Last month, we received a tip that Wash. U. officials had told students in the PALS course -- which teaches participants about pediatric intubation -- that they would no longer be using live cats. Only mannequins.

We asked officials at both institutions about this, and a spokeswoman with Children's Hospital confirmed to us that, yes, the PALS course no longer includes live-animal training. She told us it was a "permanent change to the course." Neither Wash. U. or Children's Hospital responded at the time to Daily RFT's requests for interview or further details on this change.

Wash. U.'s "undercover video."

So, we wrote a story announcing that the practice of using cats in this course was over, and PETA and local animal-rights advocates in response praised the decision and celebrated its victory.

Today, however, weeks after that news broke, Wash. U. and Children's Hospital officials have penned a letter to the editor to the P-D with a pretty newsworthy announcement titled "Medical school's decision to stop using animals does not extend to all training."

The letter defends the practice, saying, "We believe our training serves the best interests of sick infants, who benefit from experienced physicians." It doesn't give much detail on where cats will still be used, but says their comments may have been misinterpreted to mean that the decision to stop using live cats extended beyond the PALS course.

"This is a lie by omission," says Goodman, referring to the hospital's statements to Daily RFT last month. "They mislead you to think they were ending the 'cat lab'.... They are just calling it something else. It's the exact same training for some of the same people at the same facility."

Photo by Leah Greenbaum for RFT
Protest at Wash. U. last year.

This means that PETA -- and local advocacy group Alliance for Medical Progress -- will relaunch its campaign and intensify their pressure on Wash. U. to actually end the practice altogether.

"The campaign is going to continue, and it's going to escalate until the university aligns its program with what others do and spares these cats," Goodman says.

All along, the argument of PETA -- who made a splash with an undercover video in April inside the class and with public support from The Price Is Right's Bob Barker -- is that it's not only cruel to intubate live cats, it's also an unnecessary and uncommon practice. In this specific PALS course, PETA says, Wash. U. was the only institution in the country still using cats.

And in pediatric residencies -- which is where the practice will continue here -- more than 98 percent in the United States do not use live animals, Goodman notes. PETA says that experts, including the American Heart Association, do not endorse this practice.

F. Sessions Cole, director of the division of newborn medicine at Wash. U. and chief medical officer at Children's Hospital, tells Daily RFT that the practice of using cats is incredibly valuable and very safe for the animals involved.

"Mannequins are certainly an important part of the training...but there is a part of the procedure that involves being able to see the back of the throat and being able to insert the tube that is, in our experience, best taught with a living model," says Cole who co-signed the P-D letter.

Continue for our interview with Dr. F. Sessions Cole.

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My Voice Nation Help

I remember when I first heard about this, and my first thought was 'Huh. I can use my cat to practice intubation rather than a partner or mannequin? That's awesome, thanks for the tip!"


i hope they are forcibly made to stop, how would they like that done to them, poor kitty's

Brittney Dugger
Brittney Dugger

I think testing should be done on inmates. Animals don't have voices for rebuttal. You rape or murder someone, you either go on the frontlines of war or you get to be a lab "rat"...

Courtney Ringle
Courtney Ringle

there are already too many cats running around to begin with. People who have domesticated cats who allow them to run around outdoors and get impregnated.. what happens to those babies if they cannot sell them or even give them away? they give them to a Shelter. and sometimes they end up being put down. What is the big deal?

Kelly Kaufmann
Kelly Kaufmann

It is a necessity to provide experience in doing procedures, and to prevent the poor from being exploited (the only groups that tend to be willing to be experimented on for a sum of money is the poor). Perhaps these PETA individuals can offer to have the experiments done on them and their children if they are so against it.

Jimmie Thomptson
Jimmie Thomptson

yeah, well, just see who gets hurt in the long run...that Karma thing will come to bite them like a't wait...& crumpy cat will be there laughing & me too


@EMT-B t5hat is so wrong and no its not really legal for pet owners


@Courtney Ringle the big deal? they're suffering. the fact that you even ask this question is disgusting.


@Courtney Ringle ...the BIG DEAL is NOT to TORTURE them to death like they had committed some heinous crime.  your lack of empathy is scary.


@Courtney Ringle 

The Big that it is the Humans who have been making the mistakes.....not the poor Cats.  How Cruel Can You Be.....enjoying the suffering of other LIVING BEINGS!!!!


@Kelly Kaufmann seriously? seriously? they have simulators for this. using animals is monstrous and unnecessary.

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