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Washington U stops use of live cats for PALS

Following an extensive PETA campaign, Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL) confirmed May 31, 2013 that it has ended the use of cats in painful and crude intubation training drills.
Following an extensive PETA campaign, Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL) confirmed May 31, 2013 that it has ended the use of cats in painful and crude intubation training drills.

Some may not always agree with PETA's methods, but when their relentless exposure of animal cruelty results in an end to that abuse, we can only applaud, and breathe a small sigh of relief.

Approximately six weeks ago, PETA released undercover video footage showing cats being repeatedly intubated with tubes by medical students at Washington University at St. Louis for their PALS program (Pediatric Advanced Life Support). Quoting from a previous article published in April 2013, "WUSTL keeps 9 cats on site and each has as many as 15 intubations up to four times a year. That's 60 intubations in one year. " (University subjecting live cats to amateur intubations)

The problem with using live cats is two-fold: the cats undergo a great deal of pain and stress (and physical damage when improperly intubated), and the practice is now a relic of times past since modern technology offers simulators that are far more accurate in their anatomy of children and babies.

Even the co-developer of the PALS program disagrees with the use of live cats as substitutes. ".... nurse, and paramedic Cindy Tait shared with PETA "[A]s a training tool, animals are not helpful because they possess drastically different anatomy from that of human infants, which can mislead course participants and give them a false sense of confidence in their skills. … There is absolutely no evidence in the scientific literature to indicate that using animals to teach this procedure is effective on its own or that it improves the skills of those trained on simulators."

PETA reports that "TV icon and Missouri native Bob Barker wrote to WUSTL to offer to purchase $75,000 in simulation equipment if the school would end the cruel use of cats. PETA also filed a complaint with the Missouri attorney general alleging that misleading claims that the school made on its website in defense of the course violated consumer-protection laws. " (

The campaign to get WUSTL to end their barbaric practice began back in 2008. Why it should take five long years to convince an institution of learning to keep up with the times and leave inhumane practices behing in lieu of humane and accurate technology is perplexing at best. However, the fact that WUSTL has now consented to move forward to the use of simulators and away from torturing cats is a victory in and of itself.

Other universities that use modern simulators for their medical PALS programs include "Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Naval Medical Center San Diego, Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Primary Children's Medical Center, the University of Michigan, Heartland Regional Medical Center,".

There is still a long way to go to end animal cruelty in the United States, and around the globe. It's one small step, but because of the support garnered by PETA and media attention from animal advocates everywhere, nine cats will no longer be subject to repeated conscious (and sedated) intubations.

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M. Gwynn has authored two books, Harvest and The Cat Who Wanted to be a Reindeer on .

All articles by Michele Gwynn are under copyright and cannot be re-posted whole without written consent by the author. Partial re-posting with a link back to the original article is permitted. For consent, questions, or comments, email

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