SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah is no longer buying dogs and cats for research from a Lindon animal shelter, U. officials said Tuesday in response to statements from an animal rights group claiming credit for ending the practice.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals issued a news release Tuesday, saying that its campaign against the U. — including newspaper ads, a lawsuit, a billboard on I-15 — had pushed the school to stop purchasing animals from the North Utah Valley Animal Shelter and to adopt different research methods that don't require dogs or cats.

But Tom Parks, the U.'s vice president for research, said the school had actually stopped the purchases last month to protect shelter employees from "continual harassment from animal rights extremists."

He said, "It didn't seem right to continue to have them be under the gun for our benefit."

The shelter's director could not be reached for comment.

According to Parks, no research has been disrupted and the school is now buying animals exclusively from commercial breeders, which will cause a "substantial cost increase."

A PETA spokesman said the group will not withdraw a lawsuit filed in December, seeking more details of animal research programs at the U.

PETA blasted the U. in 2009 after an activist got a job at there and documented alleged abuses. A U. spokesman said those claims were "inaccurate accusations" and that the school corrected "minor animal handling problems" after an inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The spokesman also said the abandoning of a training course that involved practicing intubation on cats "had nothing to do with PETA but was an independent university decision." The training is now done using simulators.

— Paul Koepp