People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals accused the University of Wisconsin-Madison Wednesday of violating multiple provisions in the federal Animal Welfare Act during a 2008 research study.
The study, which focused on sound localization, conducted various surgeries on cats, including the implementation of cochlear implants, which involves implanting an electronic device in the ear to restore hearing. Researchers experimented on cats because the feline auditory system is similar to that of humans.
PETA alleges UW-Madison mistreated dozens of cats by inserting electrodes into their brains and intentionally deafening them during the study, focusing on one cat in particular named Double Trouble. The organization also filed formal complaints with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Institutes of Health.
“It took PETA more than three years to pry photographs of Double Trouble out of UW,” PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo said in a statement. “Anyone who sees them will understand why the university tried to keep her miserable life and death a secret.”
UW-Madison Chancellor David Ward responded to the allegations, claiming they were “unsubstantiated” and a “gross misrepresentation of the research.”
“UW-Madison takes its responsibility for the humane use of animals in research with the utmost seriousness,” Ward said in a statement. “All research is subject to strict regulations governing animal care and comfort. Every effort is made to meet both the letter and spirit of those rules.”
PETA requested reports from the study in January 2009. Later that year the university released more than 1,000 pages and records, but did not release photos or videos. After a lengthy legal battle, the university released 37 photos in June. Shortly after receiving the photos, PETA filed the complaint.
USDA officials had previously found 20 violations within university research programs during a 2009 visit, according to The Capitol Times. A follow-up visit in July 2010 revealed UW-Madison had not sufficiently corrected six of the violations, including the use of outdated medications and a cockroach infestation, according to a USDA inspection report obtained by The Capitol Times.
In the complaint, PETA called for an investigation into the previous violations and demanded fines against the university if the claims are found valid.