People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals revealed through documents obtained by Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act Thursday that cats used for intubation training for the University’s Survival Flight program were euthanized, though University officials claimed they had been adopted.

Mark Lowell, associate professor of emergency medicine and medical director of the Survival Flight Course — a University program that trains flight nurses on efficient methods of medical treatment while under pressure during emergencies — originally claimed in a Michigan Daily viewpoint in January that three cats used in laboratory experiments in 2010 were adopted.

However, information obtained by PETA through the state’s open records law and given to The Michigan Daily indicates that two of the three cats used in 2010 were euthanized after training instead of adopted, unlike previously reported.

In a statement of response on Friday, the Office of the Vice President for Research said the University had previously corrected an “unintentional” error on its Animal Research site in August that incorrectly detailed the number of cats euthanized since 2002 — seven of 23 total were euthanized, and 16 were adopted.

“The cats were adopted out whenever possible, but medical conditions, behavioral problems or the inability to find a new home prevented some adoptions,” the statement said.

The statement added that while the University’s main priority has been to provide quality training to flight nurses through the Survival Flight course, it aims to reduce the number of animals used in research and educational initiatives.

“(The University) is committed to the principles known as the “3 Rs” – reducing the
number of animals used to the minimum necessary, replacing the use of animals with
other options whenever possible and refinement of practices to ensure the most humane
conditions possible,” the statement said.

However, the FOIA data shows that the University uses cats from R&R Research, an animal dealer currently under investigation by the United States Department of Agriculture for criminal charges of selling stolen and undocumented pets.

“The records show that (the University) obtains the cats from R&R Research — a notorious ‘Class B’ animal dealer that obtains lost, stray and abandoned cats and dogs from animal shelters as well as from undocumented ‘random sources,’ the PETA release states.

According to the University’s statement, no cats have been used in intubation training since July. However, Survival Flight continues to use pigs in intubation training.

In an e-mail sent to the Daily on Friday, David Perle, senior media coordinator for PETA, wrote that PETA was pleased with the University’s decision to replace cats with intubation simulators.

“Lost, stolen and homeless pets will no longer have hard plastic tubes repeatedly forced down their delicate windpipes, before finally being killed,” Perle wrote.

He added PETA will continue to campaign to stop the use of pigs in intubation training at the University.

LSA junior Akshay Verma, director of the student organization Michigan Animal Rights Society, said while he was glad to hear that the course will no longer be using live cats in training, he is disappointed that the use of pigs will persist.

“For me, I think the grossest injustice is that it was unnecessary,” Verma said.

He added he believes the medical problems the cats endured that led to their eventual euthanization were likely a result of their use in the University’s training.

In May, more than 100,000 signatures were compiled for a petition to end the use of cats in Survival Flight training. MARS and PETA have campaigned against the use of animals in the Survival Flight training program for years, garnering support from the Michigan Student Assembly and appealing to the University Board of Regents.

Correction Appended: A previous version of this article misidentified LSA junior Akshay Verma’s gender.

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