Animal advocacy group wins suit seeking names of UConn researchers cited for lab problems

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HARTFORD, Connecticut — A judge has ordered the University of Connecticut Health Center to disclose the names of researchers who were found to have violated federal guidelines for treating animals, granting an appeal from an animal advocacy group.

The order Thursday by Superior Court Judge Carl Schuman reverses a ruling by Connecticut's Freedom of Information Commission.

Names of the researchers had been redacted from documents the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals received in response to an October 2012 FOI request. The group sought correspondence between the health center and the National Institutes of Health "regarding animal welfare problems and potential noncompliance with federal animal welfare guidelines."

"This decision is a win for animals and for government transparency, and with this new information, we will call for these experimenters to be denied federal funding for future experiments on animals," PETA Director Justin Goodman said.

UConn officials said in a statement that they were reviewing the decision.

"UConn Health is committed to ensuring the safety of our employees as well as following all applicable guidelines and regulations in our research," the statement said. University officials declined to comment further.

Connecticut's FOI commission ruled in November 2013 that UConn properly redacted the names and grant numbers from documents it released to PETA, saying disclosure of the researchers' identities could pose a risk to their personal safety. State officials defended the redactions during the FOI case, citing incidents of violence involving animal advocacy groups and threats emailed to UConn's president in 2008 during a campaign to get the school to stop using live animals when training students on how to intubate patients.

But the judge noted the names of the researchers are already in the public domain and PETA is seeking the names only of those who did not comply with research protocols.

The redacted documents detailed more than 20 violations of federal policies and laws governing experiments on animals documented at UCHC from 2009 to 2012, according to PETA.

Those included conducting unapproved procedures on mice and rabbits, resulting in some animals' deaths, and failing to provide animals with proper pain relief after surgery, the organization has said.

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