The University of Wisconsin denied a series of claims filed by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Wednesday morning that accuse two UW federal institutions of animal cruelty.
The allegations include multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act, specifically inadequate anesthesia vet care, Jeremy Beckham, research project manager for PETA’s Laboratory Investigations Department, said.
These accusations stem from photographs and records PETA released to the public Wednesday morning depicting a cat used for hearing experiments. Beckham added PETA has been involved in a three-year-long fight with UW to obtain the photos.
“The photographs depict a surgery in 2008 of a cat named Double Trouble,” Beckham said. “There are graphic details of how [Double Trouble] had a post in her head, steel coils in her eyes and electrodes in her brain.”
PETA had originally filed a lawsuit with a Dane County attorney in April 2010 under Wisconsin’s open records law to obtain the photos used, Beckham said.
Beckham alleged UW has had an extensive history of violating animal welfare that he said has been going on for decades. He added the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed to PETA that it already had an open investigation concerning UW before photos of the cat were released.
Beckham said records show the researchers failed to properly put the cat under anesthesia, as the anesthetic mask began to fall off during a surgery. Beckham added researchers noted in their report that she started to wake up but continued to cut into the cat’s head.
Eric Sandgren, UW’s animal research oversight director, said he has examined all the accusations but asserted PETA was making false interpretations and taking techniques out of context.
In response to the anesthesia accusations, Sandgren said there was a misunderstanding in procedure and ] the mask was taken off to use a different form of anesthesia that is inserted into the lungs.
Sandgren added he has asked university veterinarians to look at each claim made by PETA and assess its validity. He said all claims have been false, and had any been true, they would address them and make changes accordingly.
“I don’t mind anybody pointing out things that we might be doing wrong,” Sandgren said. “[PETA is] just plain wrong in their facts.”
Beckham said PETA alleges the experimenters justified their actions to the Animal Use Committee by declaring the experiment kept up a “productive publication record to ensure constant funding.”
“That sounds like killing for cash to me,” Beckham said.
Sandgren said the university has changed how they look at justifications, as incidents in question date back to 2008. He said experiments have been funded by the National Institutes of Health for 30 years and provide excellent research.
However, Beckham noted PETA has asked NIH to cut funding for the experiments, as they feel there is no actual benefit to the taxpayers.
UW’s next step involves an investigation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which the university will prepare for, Sandgren said.