University of Minnesota Sued for Failing to Release Animal Testing Records

Posted on November 8, 2012

In Violation of State Law, University’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee Refuses to Allow Public Access to Meetings and Records on Vivisection

For immediate release

Lisa Franzetta, ALDF
Megan Backus, ALDF

MINNEAPOLIS — Today, the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and Minneapolis resident Isaac Peter filed a complaint in Minnesota’s 4th District court against the University of Minnesota for violating the state’s open meeting and open record laws. Minnesota’s Open Meetings Law requires all meetings of any committee of a public body to be open to the public, but the University’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) has repeatedly denied ALDF’s request for public access to its meetings regarding the treatment of animals used in the University’s laboratories. Also named in the lawsuit are the individual members of the IACUC, who can also be held responsible for the denial of public access to committee meetings.

The federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) requires that all research facilities have an IACUC. These IACUC’s review all projects involving animals in research to ensure compliance with the AWA. The University’s IACUC is a public body, whose meetings are required to be open to the public. Yet, in violation of Minnesota state law, the University of Minnesota’s IACUC continues to refuse public access. Likewise, the University has a duty to provide records to the public upon request. However, the University has delayed providing documents to ALDF for months, even after receiving payment for those records.

The lawsuit seeking greater transparency at the publically-funded research university comes on the heels of a recent high-profile investigation of animal abuse in research conducted on cats at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The University of Minnesota tests on thousands of animals in their lab, including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, pigs, sheep, and nonhuman primates. According to its own annual report, many of these animals, including nonhuman primates, are tested on without “the use of appropriate anesthetic, analgesic, or tranquilizing drugs.” Testing on animals not protected by the AWA–which specifically excludes purpose-bred birds, rats, and mice–does not have to be reported at all.

ALDF’s lawsuit is also filed on behalf of Isaac Peter, a resident of Minneapolis, Minnesota. From 2006-2009, Isaac led the Minnesota Primate Freedom Project, which focused on raising public awareness about laboratory experiments performed on primates. In 2007, Isaac requested access to the University’s IACUC pursuant to Minnesota’s Open Meetings Law and was denied. In addition, Isaac’s request for public records has been denied.

“The public has the legal right to know what the University of Minnesota is doing to animals in the name of research,” says Stephen Wells, executive director of ALDF. “This willful violation of state law and animal welfare law must end.”

Copies of the lawsuit are available upon request.

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