VICTORY! OHSU Illegally Monitored PETA, Violated Open Records Laws, Judges Rules

For immediate release:
July 7, 2022

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

Portland, Oregon. – In a victory for PETA, free speech and transparency, Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) was found to have caused “undue delay” and unreasonably withheld videos and photos requested by PETA, including taking steps to remove videos of deadly experiments in which prairie voles were given the equivalent of 15 bottles of wine a day, under Oregon’s Public Records Act, according to a decision rendered last night by Judge Andrew M. Lavin of the Multnomah County Circuit Court. Lavin also discovered that OHSU police were illegally monitoring PETA by subscribing to regular reports about PETA’s First Amendment protected activity. As a penalty, OHSU will have to pay the costs and fees incurred by PETA.

“This is a significant victory not only for PETA, but also for the public’s right to hold the institutions it funds to account,” said Asher Smith, director of litigation for the PETA Foundation. “In addition to being found guilty of illegally surveilling PETA, OHSU was rightly sanctioned for attempting to destroy evidence showing the harm it inflicted on animals in cruel experiments.”

PETA’s lawsuit, filed in April 2020, sought videos of an experiment, purported to investigate human infidelity, in which prairie voles were arbitrarily paired, drunk, tested for mate preference, and then killed. After PETA filed for public recording, OHSU misled the organization for years, first claiming the videos weren’t in its possession and didn’t own them, then claiming that ‘they had been destroyed – a lie exposed by PETA. The court has now recognized that this conduct violated Oregon public records law.

While arguing the case, PETA also found that OHSU officers received near-daily updates on PETA’s protected free speech activities from third-party monitoring companies. The court agreed with PETA that Oregon law prohibits law enforcement from collecting such information unless it is directly related to a criminal investigation and the OHSU Police Department violated this law.

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