The animal rights group PETA -- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals -- said Tuesday it has reached an agreement with Medtronic Inc. ensuring that the Fridley-based medical technology company will take steps to improve the lives of animals used in medical experiments.

In addition, a PETA spokeswoman said Medtronic has pledged to extend animal welfare protections if animals are used in foreign contract laboratories.

In return, PETA has withdrawn a shareholder resolution calling on Medtronic to halt outsourcing animal experiments to China and other countries with inadequate animal-protection laws. Medtronic's annual meeting is Aug. 21.

"Typically what we do in these situations is formally address shareholders at companies' annual meetings and protest outside," said Holly Beal, a spokeswoman for Norfolk, Va.-based PETA.

However, Beal said Medtronic was willing to meet with the group twice yearly to discuss animal welfare issues and address the issue of foreign laboratories that test medical devices.

Medical technology companies often test experimental devices on animals before they are used on humans in clinical trials.

Medtronic spokeswoman Marybeth Thorsgaard declined to comment on the PETA agreement Tuesday.

However, rules guiding animal research are posted on the company's website, The company said it will only use the smallest, most-reasonable number of animals in research, design studies to avoid unnecessary tests on animals, and explore alternatives to animal research.

Beal said PETA is especially concerned about U.S. companies that outsource animal testing to laboratories in China, where animal protection laws and regulations are lax.

Janet Moore • 612-673-7752