Washington University, Stop Torturing Cats!

  • By: Alicia Graef
  • Target: Larry J. Shapiro, M.D., Executive Vice Chancellor for Medical Affairs and School of Medicine Dean

Update August 2013:

In June it looked like a victory when a spokesperson for the St. Louis Children’s hospital, which works in conjunction with Washington University, confirmed to the Riverfront Times that the PALS course “does not include live-animal training” and that this “is a permanent change to the course.”

Unfortunately, the move was nothing more than a sleight of hand trick by the university, which will now be using cats and ferrets to teach students in its pediatric residency program how to perform tracheal intubation.

Please sign the petition asking the university to stop using live animals to teach students.

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Washington University, located in St. Louis, Mo., has recently come under fire for its continued use of live cats to teach medical students in its Pediatrics Advanced Life Support (PALS) program how to perform tracheal intubation - inserting a breathing tube into the windpipe of infants.

Cats, and other animals used in this type of training, can often suffer from a range of issues including bruising, scarring, bleeding, permanent injury, broken teeth, collapsed lungs, chronic pain and death. Cats are used over and over again to teach students, while the school justifies the practice by saying that they care for the cats and adopt them out after three years of use.

Clearing an airway is obviously a lifesaving technique that students should become proficient at, but there is no need to use live animals when effective alternatives are available.

The majority of medical and pediatrics programs in the U.S. have stopped using animals and have switched to human patient simulators that are anatomically correct, can be used repeatedly and do not cause harm to any living being. 

Washington University is believed to be the last school still using live animals in its PALS program.

Please sign the petition asking Washington University's School of Medicine to abandon the archaic practice of using cats and make an immediate switch to the use of simulators.

As someone who is concerned with animal welfare, I was beyond dismayed to learn that while Washington University's School of Medicine will stop using cats to train medical students how to perform tracheal intubation in its Pediatrics Advanced Life Support (PALS) course, the school has deceived the public and will continue to do so to teach pediatric residents. 


It's also dismaying to know that yours is one of only two schools that continue to use live animals for traceal intubation, despite the the availability of modern alternatives and American Heart Association's stance against it and recommendation that infant simulators be used instead.

Using live animals to train students is not only cruel, but is an outdated practice that cannot be justified when there are effective alternatives available. The majority of schools and pediatrics programs in the U.S. have stopped using animals in their curricula and have switched to human patient simulators that are anatomically correct, can be used repeatedly and do not cause harm to any living being. Additionally, studies have shown that both medical and veterinary students learn just as well, if not better, using simulators.

I sincerely hope that you will immediately abandon the archaic practice of using cats and make an immediate switch to the use of simulators.

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