U.Va. stops using cats in pediatric medical training

(Stock photo)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) - The University of Virginia has stopped using live cats to train medical students to insert breathing tubes in newborns.

U.Va. spokesman McGregor McCance told The Daily Progress that the university's three USDA Category A felines - Alley, Kiki and Fiddle- have been adopted out to local residents.

"We've received a lot of feedback from lots of people on this issue, because obviously it's one that stirs a lot of passion," he said.

The university didn't say why it stopped the practice. McCance said the use of cats is still approved for training pediatrics residents.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and other critics say simulators should be used instead of live cats. Former game show host Bob Barker sent a letter to U.Va. President Teresa Sullivan in 2012 asking the university to stop the practice.

Dr. John J. Pippin, director of academic affairs with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, welcomed the decision.

"We're delighted that UVa has ended the use of cats which we thought all along was indefensible - not just cruel but totally unnecessary," Pippin said.

Pippin said his group discovered the change through public records requests.

In an email to Pippin, the U.Va. medical school's dean, Steven T. DeKosky, wrote that the university has "no plans to use cats in the future for this model."

"No school has ever gone back to animals after switching for pediatric," Pippin said.

University officials had said that using cats in medical training was a necessary practice that saved lives.

"This has never been essential to save babies' lives, or you can be certain they wouldn't have ended it," Pippin said.