UI cited by USDA for baby ferret deaths at research facilities

The United States Department of Agriculture filed two complaints against the University of Iowa after an investigation found multiple ferret kits had died as result of being held in improper enclosures.


Ryan Adams

The Roy J. & Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine is seen on Monday, November 18, 2019.

Josie Fischels, Managing Editor

The United States Department of Agriculture has filed two complaints against the University of Iowa after an investigation found multiple ferret babies, known as kits, had died as a result of being held in improper enclosures. 

The investigation report, obtained by animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, found that in one incident, a ferret kit caught its leg in a cage, resulting in a bone fracture. The animal was later euthanized. The report stated that the facility found the enclosure had a “bowed enclosure floor with enough space for a kit leg to get caught in.” The facility reported that all affected floor components from inventory have been removed. 

In a separate incident, the report stated that a pregnant ferret had been left in the wrong cage, and two of her kits were found dead inside the enclosure. Two more kits were also found dead after the ferret had been moved to the correct enclosure, “although the cause of death was not determined.”

The two incidents happened in February and August, according to the report.

“The University of Iowa needs to get out of the animal-experimentation business,” PETA Vice President of Laboratory Investigation Cases Alka Chandna wrote in a statement to the Daily Iowan. Ferrets are known to be intelligent, sensitive, and empathetic, but the same cannot be said of the workers in the University of Iowa’s laboratory.”

UI Director of Media Relations Anne Bassett said in a statement, “The University of Iowa takes the care and health of its animals seriously. It’s aware of these issues and has taken steps to prevent their recurrence in the future.”

According to the University of Iowa’s National Ferret Resource and Research Center website, ferrets are often used by university facilities to model human lung diseases. Ferrets have been used to research COVID-19 vaccines and the center also uses the animals to study cystic fibrosis ferret models. 

The center came under fire in 2018 for a similar incident, in which an employee and the organization Stop Animal Exploitation Now reported the center for the mistreatment and deaths of multiple ferrets, including kits.