Washington University has stopped using live cats in a medical training course, a practice that some animal-rights groups have long opposed.
For years, the university used cats in a pediatric life-support training course. Medical workers at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, which is affiliated with the university, learned how to place breathing tubes down infants’ throats, using sedated cats for the practice.
Abby Wuellner, spokeswoman for St. Louis Children’s, on Friday confirmed the decision to stop using cats but said she had no further details.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has been protesting the practice since 2008. Earlier this year, TV game show host and animal rights activist Bob Barker offered to buy two high-tech mannequins for the St. Louis training if Washington University would agree to stop using cats.
“PETA is thrilled that (the university) has finally decided to spare cats the pain of enduring crude medical training drills and is joining the hundreds of other facilities across the country that teach people to save babies’ lives by exclusively using sophisticated lifelike simulators,” Justin Goodman, director of laboratory investigations for PETA, said in a statement.
PETA filed a complaint in April with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, alleging potential violation of the Animal Welfare Act. The group cited undercover video it had acquired.
The USDA investigated a similar complaint in 2009 and found no evidence of violations.
Bo Kennedy, a Children’s Hospital pediatrician, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last month that mannequins were not an adequate substitute. He said cats were used because their upper airways are similar to those of newborn infants.
The Post-Dispatch said the Washington University lab houses nine male cats who live without cages. They were sedated and intubated four to five times a year for three years before being adopted.