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The Physicians Committee

NEWS RELEASE May 18, 2012

East Carolina University Violating Federal Law by Using Live Animals, Doctors Say

USDA Complaint Says Live Ferret Use Should Be Halted; Vast Majority of Pediatrics Residency Programs Use Nonanimal Methods

GREENVILLE, N.C.—Live animals are unlawfully used in invasive procedures in the pediatrics residency program at East Carolina University, says the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) in a federal complaint.

Pediatrics training at East Carolina University (ECU) involves using live ferrets for endotracheal intubation. This procedure includes repeatedly forcing a plastic tube through the mouth and into the windpipe, or trachea, of a live ferret. Animals used in this training procedure can suffer tracheal bruising, bleeding, scarring, severe pain, and they are at risk of death.

Ninety-five percent of U.S. pediatrics programs exclusively use nonanimal education methods, including the University of North Carolina, Wake Forest University, Duke University, and Carolinas Medical Center, according to a PCRM survey. ECU is the last program in the state still using animals.

“It is unnecessary to traumatize animals to teach pediatric emergency procedures, since validated simulators are widely used,” says North Carolina pediatrician Roberta Gray, M.D. “A newborn baby’s anatomy is different from a ferret’s, and residents at ECU can get a better education using human patient simulators.” Dr. Gray co-signed the federal complaint with John Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., PCRM’s director of academic affairs.

PCRM’s complaint, which was filed April 26 with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Eastern Region office in Raleigh, states, “ECU is violating the Animal Welfare Act because superior training methods exist that could replace the university’s use of live animals and alleviate the severe pain and injury that can be caused by this procedure.” The complaint also cites inadequate oversight in the approval of the training protocol by the school’s animal care and use committee.

For a copy of the federal complaint and to interview Dr. Gray or Dr. Pippin, please contact Dania DePas at 202-527-7382 or

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.



Media Contact:
Dania DePas

John Pippin, M.D.

John Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C.

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