THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1996, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Saturday, August 17, 1996 TAG: 9608170229 SECTION: LOCAL PAGE: B5 EDITION: FINAL SOURCE: BY DIANE TENNANT, STAFF WRITER LENGTH: 49 lines
An undercover investigation and complaint filed by Norfolk-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has prompted the National Institutes of Health to investigate animal cruelty charges at Boys Town National Research Hospital in Omaha, Neb.
The complaint, filed this week, charges that kittens used in experiments by a husband-wife research team at the hospital were neglected and treated cruelly.
The 44-page complaint was based on video and notes by two PETA-paid undercover investigators who worked at Boys Town. The first investigator was sent in June 1995, after a Boys Town employee called PETA, saying animals were suffering. The second investigator was sent in December 1995.
The hospital, which specializes in hearing loss in children, uses cats in experiments because cats are born deaf and gradually gain hearing. Randy Blauvelt, director of public relations, declined to say specifically what researchers were studying in this case.
On Thursday, the hospital suspended all research involving cats pending internal and external investigations. However, hospital officials denied any wrongdoing and issued a statement saying that the hospital ``is committed to the highest ethical standards in all of its clinical and research programs.''
``Our position is that their allegations are - pathetic would be a good word - and are denied,'' Blauvelt said.
PETA, the world's largest animal-rights organization, has a history of conducting undercover investigations of research facilities and animal dealers. Some of its investigations have resulted in fines against laboratories and the termination of research projects.
PETA's complaint, which was also filed with the United States Department of Agriculture, says Boys Town has failed to comply with the federal Animal Welfare Act. Specific allegations include failure to provide adequate veterinary care to kittens whose brains were operated on, failure to euthanize suffering animals, and failure to properly train and supervise staff.
PETA claims that the experiments conducted at the hospital are not worthwhile, because cats and kittens are not good models for studying human deafness.
Boys Town, a nonprofit organization that offers programs for abused, abandoned and neglected children, operates the hospital. The hospital treats 20,000 children a year for balance, hearing, speech and language disorders.
KEYWORDS: PETA by CNB