Washington University Under Fire for Torturing Cats

This week, animal rights advocates protested at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., to raise awareness about the school’s use of cats to teach medical students in its Pediatrics Advanced Life Support (PALS) program how to perform tracheal intubation, a practice that involves placing a tube down a newborn’s windpipe.

Animals used in these procedures can suffer from a number of issues from bruising, bleeding and scarring to chronic pain and death. In some cases, lawsuits have been filed against schools that still support this practice by organizations such as the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine who believe that using animals violates the Animal Welfare Act since alternatives are widely available.

Only a handful of schools still use animals to teach medical students. The rest of the medical facilities in the U.S. and Canada have made the switch to non-animal models, such as the TraumaMan System, Synman, PREMIE Hal and human cadavers for medical and trauma training courses, including Harvard Medical School, Duke University, Yale University and the University of Michigan. These simulators are anatomically correct, realistic, can be used over and over again and have been approved by the American College of Surgeons.

In recent months, a growing number of schools have abandoned the use of animals in their curricula, including the Medical College of Wisconsin, East Carolina University, the University of Virginia, Vanderbilt University, the University of Oklahoma, the University Texas at Houston and Albert Einstein Medical Center.

Unfortunately, Washington University still believes it’s alright to use animals and has attempted to justify the practice by saying that the cats are treated well and later adopted out… after repeatedly being used in the program for three years.

“Students report a cat gives them a better opportunity to visualize vocal cords that are moving and to learn to coordinate intubation with the animal’s breathing. They also report greater confidence to deal more adequately with infant and pediatric emergencies,” said a spokesman for the university in a statement.

Animal advocates disagree and are protesting the school’s use of cats, when it could instead take advantage of simulators that are available there. Others, including physicians, agree with the stance that animals shouldn’t be used and that simulators are more appropriate for teaching human anatomy. The study Dying to Learn: Exposing the Supply of Dogs and Cats to Higher Education found that both medical and veterinary students learn just as well through alternative teaching methods.

“This is such an easy campaign to win,” Laura Shields, co-founder of St. Louis Vegan, told the Riverfront Times. “People have cats at home. To imagine someone restraining your cat, opening their mouth and cramming a tube down it, must really upset a lot of people.”

Hopefully, Washington University will be next on the list of schools that stop using animals to teach students.


Please sign the petition asking Washington University to stop the cruel and unnecessary practice of using live animals and switch to infant simulators to teach pediatrics residents.


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Photo credit: Thinkstock


Joanne S.
Jo S4 years ago

Absolutely horrendous! Disgusting pigs.This should be illegale!
Thanks Alicia.

Laura Saxon
.4 years ago

I singed the petition ages ago. This sort of thing needs to stop. Universities should be places of learning and no harm towards animals should ever take place. The animals must be set free and allowed to live their lives without fear of being killed or hurt in any way.

carole f.
carole Fr,aser4 years ago

you students who are comitting these actts should be ashamed of yourselfs these experiments do not prove anything anyway leave these cats alone its so cruel.

Agatha C.
Agatha C.5 years ago

Use prisoners who are on death row, so what if they die - when will supposedly educated people realise that animals are not and never will be an alternative to a human - sickened by society and ashamed to be classed as a human being - would rather be a cat !!

Susan Allen
SusanAWAY Allen5 years ago

Sandy, I agree with everything that Margaret just said, plus, please remember, this testing on these poor cats is done repeatedly, not just once. It is torture to the animal, no matter what you think. Maybe you should volunteer to be a test subject or perhaps volunteer your own child for the testing since it's just no big deal as far as you're concerned.

Margaret C S.
Margaret S5 years ago

If you've ever been intubated, you might change your tune. The aftereffects are extremely uncomfortable and the patient must be monitored for possible injury. Anesthesia is no treat either. Pets that I've had to have operated on generally have diarrhea and vomiting after the anesthesia and there are a number of risks incurred during the procedure. This is from the "Medline Plus" site on the topic of endotracheal intubation"
"Additional risks for this procedure include trauma to the voice box (larynx), thyroid gland, vocal cords and trachea (windpipe), or esophagus. Puncture or perforation (tearing) of body parts in the chest cavity, leading to lung collapse, may also occur."
Surgery and anesthesia are invasive, painful, traumatic and dangerous. Hardly something I would want any living and feeling being to go through unnecessarily and without benefit to themselves.

Sandy O.
Sandy O.5 years ago

This procedure is not torture, it is the very same thing that veterinarians do to cats every day when they anesthetize them for surgery. And those of you who are so stupid to think it is torture, the cats are anesthetized when they are intubated, just like you are when you are intubated for anesthesia. The tube is not crammed down the throat, it is carefully introduced into the trachea, just like it is for humans and any other animal being intubated. Do you fools really want doctors operating on you after learning surgery and other invasive procedures on rubber dolls? If so, well, you deserve what you get. the price of ignorance.

Carrie Anne Brown

voted and signed, thanks for sharing :)

Shelly Peterson
Shelly Peterson5 years ago

Petition, so signed!!!!!!!!!

Jey S
Jeanne Schlatter5 years ago

We have years of experience experimenting on animals. This has given us the ability to make alternate methods for instruction that don't require animal experimentation and training. While the cats at Washington University are lucky enough to have a future after three years of training use, unlike so many other lab animals, there is no need for them to have to be used like this in the first place.