Eric Sandgren, UW’s Research Animal Resource Center director, said the university has been transparent about the standing citation and posted the USDA report on the university website as soon as they learned that the appeal had failed.
He added that he did not think the citation should stand because appropriate steps have been taken and new guidelines were put in place after the accident.
“The bottom line is that, yes we made a mistake. That’s been posted on our website for two weeks, right after we got the citation from USDA. I don’t know why PETA all of a sudden is bringing it up,” Sandgren said.
UW received two citations during the investigation in December and successfully appealed one, he added.
PETA spokesperson Jeremy Beckham said the report was obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and confirmed PETA’s allegations of “unrelieved, ongoing suffering of cats” in the UW lab.
Beckham also said the university has been falsely claiming to be free of all citations from USDA even though it had been notified in December and has been appealing the citations for two months.
“They knew that they were cited right when the inspector was on campus last December…and they just lost their appeal,” Beckham said. “For the past three months, the [University of Wisconsin] has been lying about what happened with the USDA investigation.”
The USDA investigation report from last December, which is on the university website, labels the investigation a “routine investigation.”
According to Sandgren, the report would have labeled it a “focused investigation” if it had been a response to PETA’s second set of complaints filed last year.
“The USDA did not separate us,” Sandgren said. “PETA is being very disingenuous. That was not a response to their allegations at least to the best of our knowledge.”
PETA filed two separate complaints against the university, one last April and another last December.
UW received no citation from USDA from the focused investigation in response to the first set of complaints.
“USDA did not find merit in any of the eight charges filed against us in the first PETA complaint,” Sandgren said. “[UW has] received no citation from their second set of complaints against the university.”
Sandgren said he has not seen the second sets of complaints filed by PETA, which is only available through filing an open information request.
PETA included five charges against the university in the second complaint alleging serious animal welfare violations, which are distinct from the previous allegations.
Sandgren said he has heard about the new complaints but cannot comment on the allegations before looking at the actual report.
“We filed [a request to obtain the report] in March but we haven’t got it yet, you can imagine how frustrated we are,” he said.
The USDA did not reply for comment as of press time.
In response to actor James Cromwell’s protest at a Board of Regents meeting, the University of Wisconsin claimed the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ allegations of the mistreatment of even more cats in one of its laboratories were “unsubstantiated.” Yet the troubling allegations in the complaint to the regents were based directly on UW’s own internal records chronicling sick and dying cats and on horribly upsetting photos UW faculty took of their own experiments and expected no one to see.
How about some honesty, for a change, from our administration? The issue here is not that the extensively documented, troubling allegations are “unsubstantiated.” They are very true. The regents just don’t care.
Gina Stuessy (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Madison resident who graduated from UW with a degree in biomedical engineering in 2008.