The dead ferrets were lab animals and the complaint was filed by an animal advocacy group.

The Gazette reports:

Dead ferrets at University of Iowa prompt federal complaint

An Ohio-based animal advocacy group that monitors research facilities nationally for abuse violations has filed a complaint against the University of Iowa related to the deaths of at least seven ferrets in one of its labs.

Stop Animal Exploitation Now, the nonprofit that goes by SAEN, filed its complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s western region in Fort Collins, Colo., on Monday, according to a copy of the complaint. It asked for an immediate investigation and a fine of at least $70,000, citing a letter UI officials sent the National Institutes of Health in December reporting an animal care technician on Oct. 29 found a dead female ferret and two dead kits in a cage.

Another female appeared to be in active labor, prompting the technician to contact veterinary and lab staff. They removed the dead animals and indicated all remaining females, called “jills,” were pregnant.

“The jills were separated and cages appropriately identified as breeder animals,” according to the UI letter.

Staff then monitored the laboring jill, who produced several dead kids, the UI reported. That jill, in poor condition, was euthanized, and a necropsy found more kits in utero. The animals were delivering five to 10 days before expected — pregnant jills typically are separated six to 10 days before anticipated labor, according to the letter.

The two jills in question were the first bred to a new genetically modified male, and UI officials reported being “unclear if the cause of early abortion and jill health are linked to a non-specific mutation.”