University of Virginia Violating Federal Law by Using Live Animals, Doctors Say

The Physicians Committee
NEWS RELEASE November 22, 2011
University of Virginia Violating Federal Law by Using Live Animals, Doctors Say

USDA Complaint Says Invasive Cat Use Illegal; Vast Majority of Pediatrics Residency Programs Use Nonanimal Methods

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.—Live animals are unlawfully used in invasive procedures in the pediatrics residency program at the University of Virginia, says the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) in a federal complaint filed Nov. 17.

Nonanimal education methods are exclusively used by 94 percent of U.S. pediatrics programs, including those at Eastern Virginia Medical School, Inova Fairfax Hospital and Hospital for Children, and Virginia Commonwealth University Health System in Richmond, according to a PCRM survey.

Pediatrics training at the University of Virginia (UVA) involves using live cats for endotracheal intubation. This includes repeatedly forcing a plastic tube through the mouth and into the windpipe (trachea) of a live cat. Animals used in this training procedure can suffer tracheal bruising, bleeding, scarring, and severe pain, and they are at risk of death.

Josie Kinkade, M.D., is a local physician who co-signed the federal complaint with John Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., PCRM’s director of academic affairs. “It is unnecessary to traumatize and harm animals to teach pediatric emergency procedures, especially when validated simulators developed to replace animals are widely used,” says Dr. Kinkade.  “A newborn’s anatomy is different from a cat’s, and residents at UVA can get a better education using human patient simulators.”

UVA’s state-of-the-art medical simulation center already owns simulators validated for this training. Numerous pediatrics residencies use the Gaumard Premie HAL and Premie Blue simulators, which mimic the airway of a low birth weight premature newborn.

PCRM’s complaint, which is being filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Eastern Region Animal Care office, states, “UVA is violating the AWA because superior training methods exist that could replace the university’s use of live animals and alleviate this severe pain.” The complaint also cites inadequate oversight in the approval of the training protocol by the school’s animal care and use committee. 

The Animal Welfare Act’s implementing regulations “require that a principal investigator—including course instructors—consider alternatives to procedures that may cause more than momentary or slight pain or distress to any animal used for research purposes.” 

For a copy of the federal complaint and to interview Dr. Pippin or Dr. Kinkade, please contact Dania DePas at 202-527-7382 or

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.

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