Lawsuit Brought Under New York Open Records Law To Shed Light on Outdated Experiments on Cats and Primates by the State University of New York (SUNY).

Yesterday, on behalf of Citizens for Alternatives to Animal Research & Experimentation (“CAARE”), and with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, we filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of New York challenging the State University of New York’s unlawful withholding of records under New York’s Freedom of Information Law (“FOIL”), the state’s open government law. CAARE is a national non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting a fundamental change in the way the United States conducts biomedical research. CAARE advocates shifting, where feasible, from outdated animal research to modern scientific technologies that do not rely on the use of animals, and are both effective and far more humane. To further its mission, CAARE submitted a FOIL request to SUNY seeking access to records that will shed light on issues of national significance–i.e., the need to phase out unnecessary animal research, especially when non-animal alternatives are currently available, and the need to protect those animals that are used in such research from unnecessary pain, distress, and suffering. CAARE’s FOIL request also sought to ascertain whether NIH and the USDA are ensuring that this taxpayer-funded research—which has already cost the taxpayers more than $7.95 million—is in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. SUNY denied CAARE’s FOIL request, citing the statutory exemptions allowing state agencies to withhold records on the grounds that disclosure will endanger public health and safety, and that the records constitute proprietary information and trade secrets. However, as our Petition explains, SUNY cannot withhold purely factual, noncommercial information that describes how publicly funded research on animals is being or has been performed, including information concerning the care and treatment of such animals. Moreover, SUNY cannot deny access to the requested records based solely on the grounds that CAARE is an animal protection organization, especially where no credible threat exists and, as CAARE’s website explains, it abhors violence and is dedicated only to peaceful dialogue about the need for and efficacy of such research. Therefore, in accordance with FOIL’s broad standard of open disclosure, we have asked the New York Supreme Court to order SUNY to release the requested records to CAARE. You can read our petition here.