Cat Killings Fuel Dissecting Debate

PETA, educators clash over cutting cats in the classroom

By Brian Hamacher
|  Monday, Jun 22, 2009  |  Updated 5:09 AM PDT
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Suspect Arrested in Miami Cat Torture Case

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The cat killing spree in South Florida has animal activists demanding the end of cat dissecting in classrooms.

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In the wake of the gruesome killings of several cats in South Florida, and the news that the teen accused in the killings dissected cats in a high school class, educators are questioning whether cutting up animal carcasses in school should be eliminated from the curriculum.

When 18-year-old Tyler Weinman was arrested and charged with killing 19 cats in Cutler Bay and Palmetto Bay, we soon learned that the high schooler had dissected a cat during an anatomy class during his junior year.

Weinman's arrest fueled the argument for critics who'd like to see dissecting become a thing of the past.

PETA quickly jumped on his former school, Miami Palmetto High, demanding they put a stop to animal dissections in favor of more humane learning methods, like using fake animal models.

"There is no research that shows using real cats is better than non-animal learning methods," Justin Goodman, a PETA researcher, told the Miami Herald.

Supporters of animal dissecting say that the practice, which has been around for hundreds of years, is generally for more advanced science classes, and that it's hard to replicate the real deal.

"It's one thing to show you physically what an animal looks like, but I don't think you want to take your animal to a veterinarian that doesn't know what the inside of an animal looks like," Milagros Fornell, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Miami-Dade, told the Herald.

The Broward County School District got rid of dissecting cats a decade ago, though they still do frogs and fetal pigs.

Many, including the teacher who instructed Weinman in his cat dissection, aren't quite ready to make the connection between a classroom exercise and a brutal cat killing spree.

"I don't know how we can bridge the gap between a controlled [classroom] situation, to what this disturbed young man has done," Palmetto High anatomy teacher Lynn Evans said last week.

At the college level, one local professor said that the cats will be killed anyway, so we might as well draw some knowledge out of them.

"People are always worried about where they come from. Do you know how many thousands of cats are euthanized in this country?" said Bruce Grayson, biology professor at UM. "If students can learn from them, and as long as they are properly obtained and disposed of, and as long as students use them in a responsible manner, then they are a useful teaching tool."

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