UI says its fixed problems that led to dead ferrets

File image of wild ferrets.

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- The University of Iowa says it has fixed procedures that led to a complaint about dead baby ferrets during research.

The animal rights group, Stop Animal Exploitation Now, filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture over an incident in October. During that incident, which the University self-reported to the National Institutes of Health, a technician found a dead ferret and two dead baby ferrets, called kits, in a cage with another ferret in labor. That ferret gave birth to several dead babies. At that point, staff discovered several other ferrets in the cages were pregnant.

Pregnant ferrets are typically separated before giving birth. That did not happen in this case, prompting the issues and now, the complaint.

That complaint pointed to improperly trained staff and lack of care for the ferrets, noting the cages were not properly labeled to indicate the ferrets were pregnant. The group is asking for the UI to pay the maximum fine of $10,000 per violation per animal.

"We believe the University of Iowa should face the maximum penalty," said SAEN executive director Michael Budkie. "The university's negligence killed innocent mothers and their newborn children."

The University of Iowa issued a statement to KCRG-TV9 saying it had addressed the training of the research team and started new protocols to prevent similar instances from happening in the future.

The ferrets were part of a research project around treatments for cystic fibrosis.