Following some heavy campaigning against the practice, Washington University has announced that it will no longer be using cats to teach students in its Pediatrics Advanced Life Support (PALS) course how to perform tracheal intubation.
The procedure, which is intended to teach students how to place a tube down a newborn’s windpipe, involves placing a hard plastic tube down catsí throats, which can cause them to suffer from a number of issues from bruising, bleeding, swelling and scarring to broken teeth, collapsed lungs, chronic pain and death.
Washington University was believed to be the last school that still used live animals in its PALS course and had continued to justify the practice by saying the cats weren’t harmed and were adopted out after three years of “service,” although no one can verify that claim.
While animal advocates have been campaigning to get the school to stop using cats for years, a recent surge in pressure from different fronts including an undercover investigation by PETA, a letter from Bob Barker criticizing the practice and offering $75,000 to buy state-of-the-art infant simulators, local activists holding weekly protests at the school and almost 18,000 signatures on a petition asking the school to stop using cats may have finally pushed the school make the decision.
According to Alexandria Faye of the St. Louis Alliance for Medical Progress, local animal advocates were mid-protest when students informed them that cats would no longer be used for the course.
A spokesman for the St. Louis Children’s hospital, which works in conjunction with Washington University, later confirmed to the Riverfront Times that the PALS course “does not include live-animal training” and that this “is a permanent change to the course.”
According to a statement from the St. Louis Alliance for Medical Progress:
While PETA has been fighting the cat lab from afar for five years, it was collaboration with our on-the-ground grassroots group that pushed the issue in front of the local public and amped up the pressure on Washington University’s directors. Between having a big national group on their backs and having committed local animal activists in their front yard, Washington University was quickly faced with a wall of voices that were not letting up until the animals were safe and Bo Kennedy’s lab was closed for good. The campaign included a variety of tactics, from PETA’s undercover video leak to AMP’s photo leak from inside the vivarium; from a mass mailing to Wash U’s directors to phone-in days that included calls from activists around the world; from targeted leafleting in the community to weekly protests outside the medical school campus.
Washington University now joins a host of other schools that have given up the cruel and unnecessary practice of using live animals to teach students medical procedures, and will instead use infant simulators that are anatomically correct, can be used repeatedly and do not cause harm to any living being – which are also recommended by the American Heart Association, the organization that sponsors and creates the curriculum for PALS training programs.
As for the fate of the nine cats who were being used in the PALS course, the school is aware of offers from Five Acres Animal Shelter, Sacred Ground Sanctuary and Bob Barker to re-home them, but there has been no official word on what their futures hold yet. For updates, keep an eye on the St. Louis Alliance for Medical Progress’ Facebook page.
Photo credit: Thinkstock
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