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article imageU. of Utah biomed labs put down most of its research animals

By Stephanie Dearing     Feb 27, 2010 in Science
Uncovered by PETA, two University of Utah biomedical laboratories use dogs and cats for its research, obtaining the animals from shelters. PETA has accused the University of cruelty.

Undercover Investigation Reveals Kitten Deaths and Other Animal Suffering. Learn More.
Salt Lake City, Utah - Investigative journalism by the Salt Lake Tribune, following-up on allegations levelled by PETA against the University of Utah's Comparative Medicine Center and the Cardiovascular Research & Training Institute laboratories revealed the two laboratories had used 190 dogs and cats in 2009, all obtained from shelters. Researchers told the Tribune that the testing gave the shelter animals "a second chance at life," while records obtained by the Tribune revealed that the labs had killed 116 of the 190 strays last year. Only 74 animals survived the research process to be adopted out as pets.
Shelter officials claimed the dogs and cats were going to be euthanized before the University picked them up for testing. The news has generated a limited debate in Utah over the use of animals for research purposes. The issue is not new for the state, which might account for the media silence in Utah. The Tribune interviewed the Director of one shelter that has provided dogs and cats to the university. Tug Getting, who is with the North Utah Animal Shelter defended the university saying "... I'm probably more of an advocate for what they do up there now than I was before. [Animals] have a zero percent chance of survival at my facility, so if they have a 1 percent chance of being adopted out there, that's 1 percent better than we have here."
PETA's operative worked undercover inside the University labs for 8 months, leading to the claims that the research inflicted the animals with invasive and painful procedures. The PETA operative also allegedly documented instances of animal cruelty and neglect in the laboratory. The story came to light after PETA filed two federal complaints against the University of Utah in November 2009. Findings on the federal investigation are expected later this spring.
The laboratories obtained the animals legally, exposing what PETA called a "gateway to hell" for shelter animals. Major Utah shelters refuse to provide animals to the laboratory, and the State of Utah has revised a 29 year old law that mandated shelters to provide unwanted pets to the university for laboratory research. Under the revisions, should they be passed, shelters will have the option of providing animals to the University for research.
The North Utah Valley Animal Shelter, does not have a policy posted as to how long it will keep animals in an attempt to find homes before disposing of the animals. State law requires shelters to hold impounded animals with licence tags for three to five days, after which the shelter is free to dispose of the animal however it wants -- through returning to an owner, adoption or euthanasia. An animal surrendered by an owner may be put down immediately.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, which broke the story, the other shelter that provided unwanted cats and dogs to the University last year was the Davis County Government Animal Shelter.
The University of Utah states "Research at the University of Utah that utilizes animal models is conducted with the utmost care and concern about the research subjects. The university is in total compliance with all state and federal regulations that govern the use of animals in research. Additionally, the institution is accredited as an exemplary program by an outside and independent organization (Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International)."
A University of Utah researcher was targeted in 2007 by animal activists over his research using primates.
It is not known how many animals the University laboratories currently hold in their facilities, nor is it known what species they are using for testing. However, a 2008 research document from the University mentions testing on primates.
Animals have been used for testing of products as well as research, both medical and other, for a very long time, something organizations like the Humane Society of the United States, as well as more radical groups like PETA and the Animal Liberation Front, are still attempting to change.
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