St. Joseph hospital faces PETA complaint over cats

Wednesday, June 10, 2009 | 9:51 a.m. CDT

ST. JOSEPH — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has filed a federal complaint against a St. Joseph hospital over its use of live cats in medical training.

PETA sent a letter Tuesday to the U.S. Department of Agriculture stating that Heartland Regional Medical Center is violating the Animal Welfare Act.

The hospital uses cats to teach health care workers how to intubate infants. Intubation involves placing a tube down a patient's throat to facilitate breathing.

PETA said using live animals is unnecessary as there are lifelike mannequins available.

Sharon Smith, who oversees the training, said the cats' airways are more accurate for training purposes. She also said the USDA inspects the program every year, and a veterinarian cares for the animals.


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Cindy Chrisler June 10, 2009 | 1:59 p.m.

What a crock. I've helped teach classes like this. Mannequins are no replacement for a living, breathing, responding animal. (I have yet to come across a mannequin that goes into laryngospasms.)I've had pediatric nurses and doctors tell me how much help the labs are, especially when they need to intubate premature infants. PETA would do better to improve the lives of all the cats and dogs in shelters, and get them homes, rather than pick on a hospital that uses a few cats per year to teach life-saving techniques.

(Report Comment)
Justin Goodman June 10, 2009 | 2:29 p.m.


The suggestion that animals are somehow a better training tool than task trainers or human patient simulators is not supported by any scientific evidence. If the animals were the best way to train, then the American Heart Association (which sponsors the course given at Heartland) would require it in the course. Instead, the AHA only endorses the use of manikins and has distanced itself from any facility continuing to use animals.

And to counter your suggestion that modern simulators are unable to demonstrate laryngospasm, see below from an article about Laerdal's SimBaby published in the journal Advances in Neonatal Care (Stokowski LA. (2005). Dartmouth Welcomes SimBaby. Advances in Neonatal Care, 5(5): 237–239.)

"SimBaby breathes, cries, coughs, and hiccoughs. It can be programmed to exhibit cyanosis, stridor, retractions, wheezing, and even a pneumothorax. SimBaby also has audible heart sounds and murmurs, palpable pulses, and measurable blood pressure...A few of the skills that learners can practice with SimBaby are intravenous, intra-arterial, or intraosseous cannulation; chest tube insertion; endotracheal intubation; laryngeal mask airway insertion; suctioning; defibrillation; and cardioversion. During endotracheal intubation, complications such as laryngospasm and right mainstem intubation can be simulated."

For more information about this product, visit:

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