Education

UK loses to PETA in lawsuit seeking records about animal experiments

Fayette Judge Pamela Goodwine found the University of Kentucky in violation of the state’s open records act when it denied documents to PETA.
Fayette Judge Pamela Goodwine found the University of Kentucky in violation of the state’s open records act when it denied documents to PETA. palcala@herald-leader.com

The University of Kentucky must release animal research records to the national animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a Fayette Circuit Court judge has ruled.

Judge Pamela Goodwine agreed with Attorney General Andy Beshear that UK had violated the Kentucky Open Records Act when it refused in 2014 to give PETA its protocols for using animals in teaching exercises.

UK refused the request, saying the protocols contained personal information that could be used by activists to target animal researchers and that the protocols were preliminary documents not subject to the open records law.

PETA appealed to the Office of Attorney General, which found UK in violation of the state law. UK then appealed that decision by suing PETA in Fayette Circuit Court.

Goodwine agreed with Beshear that privacy concerns were weakened by the fact that UK’s website publicly identifies faculty and staff who are involved in courses that use animals for teaching. The judge further agreed that the protocols had been approved by a university committee and therefore could not be preliminary.

UK must disclose the protocols, Goodwin ordered, although UK may redact the contact information of faculty and staff.

In a news release, PETA officials applauded the decision, which they said would allow them to monitor UK’s compliance with the federal Animal Welfare Act.

“This court decision means that the University of Kentucky can no longer hide its use — and possible killing — of animals,” said PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo. “PETA will review these documents to push for the introduction of modern educational tools that are better for students and kinder to animals.”

A spokesman for UK said officials had just received the ruling and would review it before making any comment.

Beshear has tussled frequently with UK over the state’s open records and open meetings laws.

“This case is another example of the University of Kentucky refusing to abide by the Open Records Act,” Beshear said. “A university should embrace transparency, not fight it.”

Linda Blackford: 859-231-1359, @lbblackford

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