University of Utah

PETA Investigation: University of Utah (2009)

In 2009 PETA conducted an undercover investigation at the University of Utah documenting “miserable conditions and terrible suffering” of dogs, cats, monkeys, rats, mice, rabbits, frogs, cows, pigs, and sheep being used in experiments. [1]

As a result of the PETA investigation, it was revealed that many of the dogs and cats used in experiments at the University of Utah were obtained through local animal shelters, a practice known as “pound seizure” - a generic term for laws in various states that require animal shelters to sell dogs and cats to laboratories for use in experiments. PETA’s undercover investigation at the University of Utah led, in 2011, to the ban on pound seizure in the state of Utah. 

Salt Lake City’s Weekly newspaper reported that “Some of the dogs and cats sold by animal shelters to the university have holes drilled into their skulls, medical devices implanted in their necks, and hard plastic tubes repeatedly forced down their throats.” Dogs were sold to the U. of Utah laboratories by the North Utah Valley Animal Shelter in Lindon, Utah, which was the only shelter in the state still participating in pound seizure before this investigation. [2]

The dogs were purchased for $20 each for use in heart and respiratory experiments. Pregnant cats were bought from the shelter so that their kittens could be used. The researchers injected chemicals into the brains of the kittens to cause excessive fluid build-up in their heads. Sick and suffering animals were denied veterinary care and even pain relief. Some animals were made to suffer “just to study their pain.” [3] 

PETA’s investigator learned that a group of mice died of thirst because nobody noticed they had run out of water. According to a worker recorded on the video, “This goes on all the time.” The video shows her looking in a cage where mice had been dead for at least a week, trying to determine how long they had been dead, offering comments like “This one’s softer. These are crunchy." 

Mice and rats were caused to develop massive tumors and painful, deadly illnesses. One worker was captured on video holding a mouse by the tail with an enormous tumor, callously declaring “Betcha if you squeezed that, it would pop.”

When PETA’s investigator followed up on a neglected, suffering animal for whom she had requested veterinary care a week earlier, and asked about the researcher in charge of that animal, she was told “He doesn’t come in all the time and look at the animals.  And sometimes he loses [health status] reports.”

PETA found monkeys kept in solitary housing (known to be extremely stressful for this social species) and deprived of water so that they would do what experimenters wanted just for a sip of water. They were regularly immobilized in restraint chairs for experimental sessions. A lab worker, describing the use of water to motivate thirsty monkeys, says on the video clip “It messes with your ethics and your morals. … You know what? I don’t agree with this.” [4]

The investigation led the USDA to cite the University of Utah for nine violations of federal animal protection laws, including “A kitten died from dehydration as a result of too much medication, individual primates were neglected for days at a time, mice and Guinea pig cages were found to be overcrowded, and calves may have been exposed to painful situations for too long.” [5]

Watch PETA’s video about the investigation here:

[1]  People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, “University of Utah Investigation,”

[2]  Fruhwirth, Jess, “Pound puppies to lab rats in 2 weeks flat,” Salt Lake City’s The Daily Feed, September 6, 2010,

[3], “University of Utah Lab Undercover Investigation,” posted by PETA,  November 11, 2009,

[4] Ibid.

[5] Leonard, Wendy, “USDA issues citations to University of Utah animal laboratories,” Deseret News, April 12, 2010,