In January, a goat named William escaped his handlers at the University of Iowa Research Park and made a break for it. For 10 days, he persevered in the bitter cold Iowa winter, eluding his pursuers—and attracting throngs of supporters who applauded his freedom.
PETA learned that William was being used in federally-funded orthopedics experiments in which he was subjected to “acute cartilage injury” inflicted by a horrendous device that damages the joints. It was likely that he suffered debilitating pain for weeks after the injuries were inflicted. The university experimenters who carried out these experiments had previously subjected rabbits and minipigs to shockingly cruel experiments in which animals were kept alive for 8 to 12 weeks after their ligaments were torn using a mechanical device, and their bones were fractured using a saw.
After his escape, PETA appealed to the University of Iowa to grant William a reprieve and relocate him to a reputable sanctuary; and we offered to assist with the transfer. We pointed out that he had captured the hearts of people across the country who saw in his escape the universal desire to be free. And we shared with the university that goats are intelligent, inquisitive, curious animals who live in complex social groups and enjoy exploring and playing.
Instead, after William was captured—through a bungling effort in which he was shot repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, with a tranquilizer gun that only inflicted pain and trauma—he was again experimented on and killed.
According to The Gazette, “The university [had] also considered utilizing drones, helicopters, hunters, herding dogs, and a ‘female goat in heat’” to capture him.
Following William’s escape, PETA filed a formal complaint with federal authorities, which resulted in a citation for violating federal animal welfare law. The feds also slapped the university with a rare “official warning,” which means that the university’s treatment of animals in its laboratories will be scrutinized going forward.
Although William’s life had a tragic end in the University of Iowa’s laboratories, the story of his escape served to remind people that animals in laboratories are not numbers or cogs in a machine. Each one is an individual with interests, preferences, and a steadfast desire to be free. RIP, William.
To stay up to date on the latest Animal Welfare Act violations by laboratories like the University of Iowa, follow @AnimalLabWatch on Twitter.