UMD ceases medical tests on stray animals

Medical school officials at the University of Minnesota-Duluth have announced animal researchers will no longer use stray cats and dogs in their studies.
Dr. Rick Ziegler, the medical school’s dean, announced the policy last week after several years of debate within the community over the controversial practice.
Duluth researchers will continue to use other animals purchased from federally licensed breeders.
The Duluth City Council raised the price of stray animals from $15 to $200 one year ago, putting further pressure on the school to stop using pound animals.
The increased purchase cost also contributes to improving local shelters, said Dr. Roger Pitts, a veterinarian and member of the Duluth Animal Humane Board.
When a person leaves a pet at the shelter, staff members ask the owners if their pets can be used for research, Pitts said.
They did not advocate the move, however.
“Our goal is not to be a source of animals for research,” Pitts said.
Dr. Edwin Haller, an associate physiology professor at the Duluth medical school, said the policy will not adversely affect research.
“The use of live animals is essential,” Haller said. “We can’t do research on dead tissue. We practice animal welfare.”
He said the school’s decision to abandon the use of strays is a matter of cost. The number of shelter animals used has dropped steadily from 56 cats and dogs in 1993 to only two dogs last year.
The medical school used the husky dogs for trauma training. Students practiced implanting chest and trachea tubes in the dogs to simulate life-saving techniques. They put the animals to sleep after the session ended.
Animal researchers use mostly rats and mice in experiments.
Local shelter director Carrie Siegle said the practice of using stray animals for medical research contradicts her mission.
“It is in direct conflict with the philosophy we’ve developed down here,” she said. “We’re trying to operate a humane shelter. When they take animals, it undermines the public trust in what we’re trying to do.”

— Compiled from staff and wire reports.