Monday, February 13, 2006

Mississippi State University Attempts to Hide Animal Abuse Records: Animal Rights Group Sues Over a Violation of the Mississippi Public Records Act

Hummm, what are they trying to hide?

Animal rights group sues MSU


by Aaron Burdette

February 10, 2006

The College of Veterinary Medicine is located in Wise Center off Blackjack Road.

A lawsuit filed by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals will send Mississippi State University to court over an alleged violation of the Mississippi Public Records Act.

The lawsuit, which was filed in January, is intended to force MSU to release documents of a public nature that include information on animal research conducted by the university, said Lori Kettler, PETA's counsel on the issue. The research was funded by Iams, a pet-food company that PETA has boycotted since 1999 due to research methods the organization has deemed cruel.

The Public Records Act says that fees assessed for the release of public documents should not exceed the amount that is required for searching for, reviewing, duplicating and mailing the documents, if needed.

When PETA first requested documentation regarding MSU's research practices, the university asked for over $40,000 to procure about 500 pages of documentation, Kettler said. After several adjustments and price reductions, the university requested a fee that amounted to $52.68 per page for 19 pages of documentation, she said.

"The excessive fee MSU wants in exchange for the information would prevent any ordinary person from access to that information and, in essence, eviscerates the Public Records Act," Kettler said.

The university handled the request in the manner most befitting its magnitude, said Maridith Geuder, interim director of university relations.

"The university tried to respond based on the scope of the request. MSU feels its response was the appropriate one," she said.

The university refused to release some documentation to PETA because it was said to contain proprietary information, Kettler said.

Proprietary information refers to information related to a company's products, including research, financial, manufacturing and marketing information.

The documentation requested is meant to reveal certain aspects of MSU's experimentation, a Jan. 18 press release from PETA said.

"PETA seeks information regarding the number of animals used, the nature of the procedures to which the animals are subjected, the care of the animals and the final disposition of the animals," Kettler said.

"This information will be released because none of it can be characterized as proprietary. The fee will be revised to reflect a more accurate and reasonable one," she said.

The organization has requested similar information from approximately 20 other universities in America and has never been quoted a fee of this size for such documentation, Kettler said.

MSU is handling the matter in the most professional way possible, Geuder said.

"The university is handling the case through the proper channels," she said. "MSU will conduct its business outside of the public forum as per its policy."

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