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Tag: euthanasia

Facing defunding, VA says it will keep closer eye on its dog research experiments

varesearch

The Department of Veterans Affairs says it will tighten oversight of controversial medical experiments on dogs after an investigation found surgery failures and canine deaths in research projects at a VA facility in Virginia.

The announcement of a change in policy comes as Congress considers a bill to defund the experiments altogether.

Nationwide, invasive experiments at three VA facilities are slated to include roughly 300 dogs, and involve surgeries on their brains, spines and hearts by researchers seeking treatments for heart disease and other ailments, USA Today reported yesterday.

All the dogs will be killed when the research is complete.

Michael Fallon, the VA’s chief veterinary medical officer, said all future research projects involving dogs will have to be approved by the VA’s accrediting body.

The VA’s Office of Research Oversight found in May that researchers at the VA facility in Richmond failed to adequately document whether dogs had been treated properly, and that four dogs suffered complications in experimental surgeries.

Those findings are fueling an effort to halt VA dog experiments deemed painful for the dogs. The House passed legislation — known as the PUPPERS Act — in July that eliminated funding for such research, but the VA is hoping to persuade senators to reject the measure.

“If this legislation passes the Senate, it would stop potential VA canine research-related medical advancements that offer seriously disabled veterans the hope of a better future,” VA Secretary David Shulkin wrote in a USA Today op-ed this month.

Opponents of the dog research say much of that research hasn’t translated to humans and that the VA is relying on outdated models that don’t fully take into account scientific advances that may provide alternatives to dogs as research subjects.

“The VA is abusing its authority and fear-mongering to defend taxpayer-funded experiments on dogs that are cruel and unlikely to help veterans or anybody else,” said Justin Goodman, vice president of White Coat Waste Project, an advocacy group that wants to end funding to the agency’s dog experiments.

Only three VA facilities are conducting the type of research that would be affected by the legislation.

In Milwaukee, VA researchers looking for ways to decrease pain without slowing breathing are using dogs to study neurons that control breathing rates. In those experiments, researchers place the dogs under anesthesia and remove parts of their brains to cause a complete loss of consciousness and sensation, according to research protocol documents.

In Cleveland, VA researchers are studying ways to restore cough functions after spinal cord injury. The experiments involve placing dogs under anesthesia and then using electrodes for high-frequency stimulation at various places on their spinal cords to induce coughing. The research calls for 41 dogs, who are euthanized upon the completion of the studies.

At the Richmond VA, researchers are seeking therapies for heart disease. They are implanting pacemakers in dogs, running them on treadmills and performing various tests, including by injecting medications, inducing irregular heartbeats, creating heart attacks and blocking arteries with latex. After the research is done, the dogs are euthanized by injection or by draining their blood.

The investigation of the Richmond cardiac experiments followed a complaint to the VA inspector general’s office in March.

Investigators concluded a dog received an overdose of anesthetic during one surgery, and two dogs suffered surgical disruptions of nerves controlling digestive functions. One later died and the other was euthanized during subsequent surgeries. A fourth dog died after a surgeon accidentally cut into one of its lungs during surgery.

The VA says dogs accounted for less than 1% of the animals used in agency research last year.

Photo: Billboard in Cleveland area calls for an end to the experiments, from Cleveland.com)

Last month’s feel-good story takes bad turn

Luke the K9 solo (Courtesy of Joel Fields)

A suburban police officer who made national headlines for rescuing a doomed shelter dog and training him for police work has been fired from his job — and his whole story is now being questioned.

On top of that, the Bel-Ridge Police Department, outside St. Louis, is asking that officer Joel Fields return the dog that taxpayers, at least in part, paid to have trained, at least in part, as a police K9.

The total truth about the story is still unraveling, but the untruths unearthed so far indicate the heartwarming account Fields gave the news media wasn’t entirely accurate — including the claim that the dog, named Luke, came from a shelter and was scheduled to be euthanized.

As a result, and as has happened before, all across the Internet, thousands of hearts were falsely warmed.

As usual, we can blame lazy news media, and even lazier bloggers, for the misinformation — as well as the officer whose account of saving the dog from death’s doorstep was initially accepted on its face as truthful.

fieldsFields was praised by PEOPLE and pictured as a savior by numerous dog websites after the story broke in April.

(Fortunately, ohmidog! wasn’t one of them. We’d like to say it’s because it didn’t pass our special sniff test, or get approved by our crack team of fact checkers, but it was probably more dumb luck.)

Still, there were clues — like how hard Fields seemed to be seeking publicity, the professionally made photos he supplied of him and Luke, and the boasting about all the drug busts Luke nearly immediately made as a rookie on the job.

“He made seven drug busts in less than a month and a half of working the road with me,” Fields told Fox2 News.

How true that is — as well as the rest of the story Fields gave about the retriever — are now under suspicion.

News4 in St. Louis is now reporting that Brad Croft, the owner of Universal K9, the company that helped train Luke, is saying the account Fields gave the news media was mostly lies.

“I was a little upset, because Joel was told from the day I handed him the leash of the dog that this was not a shelter dog,” said Croft.

Croft told News4 he suspects Fields was lying about the dog’s background in an effort to gain fame and “get people to back him and give him money.”

Officials are also now investigating whether Luke was fully trained and certified as a police dog.

City prosecutor Sam Alton says Fields initially told them the dog was certified as a K9, but he says they have learned that is not true. That fact could complicate any criminal court cases Luke played a role in.

Alton says Fields is now refusing to give up the dog, whose training was funded at least in part by taxpayers.

“We would like to see the taxpayers not lose money, we would like the dog to live a happy and productive life and we would like to see the dog in service as it was meant to be,” Alton said.

“Everything legally from our point of view shows that the dog belongs to the city of Bel-Ridge,” he added. “It’s unfortunate for the city, it’s unfortunate for the residents, it’s unfortunate for the dog and it’s unfortunate for him (Fields).”

Fields told News4 over the phone this week that he quit and wasn’t fired, and wouldn’t comment anymore until talking to his attorney.

KMOV.com

Metal fragments lead to Blue Buffalo recall — the fourth canned food recall this month

Blue buffaloBlue Buffalo is recalling some of its “healthy” and “holistic” canned dog food because it might contain pieces of metal.

It’s the second company this week to recall canned dog food due to concerns about metal fragments, and the third canned dog food recall this month.

Blue Buffalo’s CEO said in a statement on the company’s website that it is recalling the food as part of its “mission of bringing transparency to pet foods.”

(That from a company that paid $32 million last year to settle a lawsuit about its deceptive advertising.)

It’s kind of hard to find the “transparent” company’s statement on the company website, so here is the link.

“My father, brother and I founded Blue Buffalo with the mission of bringing transparency to pet foods, and so, even though it is highly unlikely that you will have a product affected by this problem, we felt that we needed to voluntarily withdraw the product from retailers and let you know that we were doing this,” CEO Billy Bishop says in a letter to customers.

The recalled product is Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe Healthy Weight Chicken Dinner with Garden Vegetables. The cans have a “best by” date of Aug. 3, 2019 and the UPC is 8-40243-10017-0

PetSmart this week announced recalls of both the Blue Buffalo product and cans of Grreat Choice chicken and rice dog food.

In both cases, the companies said there had been no reports of illness or injury as a result of the possible contamination.

In both cases, the lots came from suppliers not identified by the companies or in news reports. Dog food companies commonly outsource their manufacturing to multiple manufacturers.

Also this month, Evanger’s announced a recall of its Hunk of Beef canned dog food after some of it was found to contain a sedative used to euthanize animals.

That contamination led one dog to die and at least four more to become ill in Washington state.

recalled-Against-the-Grain-dog-foodYesterday, the FDA announced another dog food brand, Against the Grain, was recalling some cans of its Pulled Beef with Gravy Dinner for Dogs amid concerns it contains the same sedative.

Against the Grain appears to be a sister company of Evanger’s.

Food Safety News reported they may share manufacturing facilities and ingredients, and that the founders of Against the Grain are listed as the son and daughter of Evanger’s owners Holly and Joel Sher.

Chelsea Sher, who serves as vice president for exports at Evanger’s, is listed as owner of the Against the Grain trademark.

Is America really running out of dogs?

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America is going to run out of dogs.

That, stunningly, was the conclusion of a Mississippi State University study funded by (and this is the important part) an organization that represents the American Kennel Club, the American Pet Product Association, PetSmart, breeders and other pet industry leaders.

The study disputes oft-cited figures from the leading animal welfare organizations, which estimate between 1.9 million and 2.5 million dogs are euthanized by shelters every year.

Instead, the study says, fewer than 780,000 unwanted dogs are being euthanized a year, many of them dangerous or damaged, and America will soon not to be able to meet the demand for dogs through shelter dogs alone.

Not that it currently does, or ever has.

The Pet Leadership Council funded the study, then hired additional analysts to “interpret” (read, spin) the results.

As a result, the message they are putting forth is not that progress is being made in reducing the numbers of unwanted animals that end up euthanized (the reality), but that America is going to run out of dogs (the new myth).

In a press release, the PLC says it is “welcoming” the study’s findings — as opposed to saying they paid for it — and that those findings show a need for more “responsibly bred” dogs.

“Mississippi State’s study will also have a significant impact on the national conversation about responsible pet ownership,” said Mike Bober, President of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council and consultant to the PLC. “Without this concrete data as a starting point, it has been all but impossible to discuss solutions because we couldn’t agree on the scope of the problem. This data also provides valuable information for those contemplating legislation that impacts the availability of dogs in their communities.”

Here are the far from solid numbers the study came up with.

American shelters are taking in 5.5 million dogs a year, about half of which end up euthanized. America, based on census figures, ownership patterns and the life-span of dogs, needs about 8.1 million dogs a year to maintain current levels of ownership.

With only 2.6 million dogs being adopted out of shelters each year and far fewer transferred or euthanized, “that means millions more must come from other sources.”

Meaning breeders. Meaning large scale puppy mills and store bought dogs and all those other things that helped lead to the dog overpopulation problem in the first place and are better off gone.

“It’s a total myth for anybody to say or think that every American who wants a dog can go to a shelter and find one,” said Mark Cushing of the Animal Policy Group, the lobbying firm that “crunched the numbers.”

“Increasingly the ones we are euthanizing are very sick or dangerous,” he added.

So shelter dogs are going to run out, they’d like to have you believe, except maybe for the dangerous and sick ones you wouldn’t want in the first place.

That’s not only balderdash, it’s the kind of fear tactics that have become so common in the world of politics and persuasion — somehow even more loathsome when applied to the world of homeless dogs.

The study seems to assume that shelters are the only source of homeless dogs, when in fact rescue groups, formal and informal, have become an increasingly popular option and are finding homes for more and more dogs. Nor does it seem to address the number of non-professionally bred dogs being born, despite more spaying and neutering. Nor does it address the hundreds of millions of unwanted dogs in other countries in need of homes.

The Pet Leadership Council commissioned the study as a follow-up to a survey it previously commissioned on dog ownership rates and where people get their dogs. A lobbying group that advises the council then used the study to extrapolate that Americans wanted more than 8 million dogs in 2016 and will want more than 9.2 million by 2036, the Washington Post reported.

The study suggests that euthanasia estimates by the Humane Society of the United States and the No Kill Advocacy Center, both of which say about 2.5 million animals are killed in shelters each year, may be based in large part on animals other than dogs.

The research was funded by the Pet Leadership Council, which represents organizations including the American Kennel Club and the American Pet Products Association; PetSmart and other large retail stores; and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, which is the legislative and lobbying voice of the pet industry.

Mike Bober, the president and CEO of PIJAC, which regularly lobbies on behalf of commercial-scale dog breeders and pet stores at the legislative level, said the study shows dog breeding and retail sales must remain protected under state and federal laws.

“Adoption can’t be our only option when it comes to helping Americans find their ideal, lifelong companions,” Bober said. “Responsibly bred puppies are an essential part of the equation.”

The industry push comes at a time that “adopt, don’t shop” campaigns urging consumers to shun breeders and pet stores are showing some results.

According to the Humane Society, more than 200 localities have passed “puppy mill” laws in the past two years that sometimes make it illegal for pet stores to source dogs anywhere other than shelters and rescuers. A similar state-level law is under consideration in New Jersey.

Breeders and pet-store owners see such legislation as misguided, saying there are not enough dogs in U.S. shelters to fill annual consumer demand.

“Our concern was that so many very different estimates have been generated by a number of entities that have often led to conflicting conclusions,” said Bob Vetere, president and chief executive of the American Pet Products Association. “It is important to have a solid understanding of the facts before making decisions impacting the supply and availability of healthy dogs.”

The study’s findings were presented Tuesday at the North American Veterinary Community conference in Florida. While the Pet Leadership Council issued a press release about the study Wednesday, it has yet to be published in a scientific journal.

The study is based on a telephone survey of 413 shelters, out of an estimated 7,100 shelters nationwide.

Using data from the surveyed shelters, the researchers concluded that more than 5.5 million dogs enter shelters each year, about 2.6 million get adopted, and that fewer than 780,000 are euthanized. The remainder are returned to their owners, or transferred to other rescues or shelters, the study said.

Evanger’s recalls Hunk of Beef dog food

ct-evangers-pet-food-recall-0209-biz-20170208-001Evanger’s is recalling some lots of its “Hunk of Beef” canned dog food after it was found to contain a sedative used to euthanize animals.

Four dogs in Washington state became sick on New Year’s Eve after eating the food, and one died, the Wheeling, Illinois-based company said.

Tests on a deceased pug named Talula found the drug pentobarbital, a sedative, in the dog’s stomach. The owner’s other pugs were sick after consuming the food, but survived.

It’s the first recall in the company’s 82-year history.

Evanger’s has ended its relationship with a beef supplier and promised to guarantee the safety of its products in the future, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The pentobarbital was detected in one lot of Hunk of Beef Au Jus, and company officials are stumped on how it got there.

Pentobarbital can affect animals that ingest it by causing drowsiness, dizziness, excitement, loss of balance, nausea and death.

On the family-owned company’s website, a video has been posted in which members of the Sher family, which owns it, explain that pentobarbital can be found in other dry pet foods if they are made with euthanized cow meat.

“We were unaware of the problem of pentobarbital in the pet food industry because it is most pervasive in dry foods that source most of their ingredients from rendering plants, unlike Evanger’s, which mainly manufactures canned foods that would not have any rendered materials in its supply chain,” the owners said.

They added that once an animal has been euthanized there are no regulations requiring veterinarians to tag the meat as such, allowing the meat to find its way into the food chain.

Although only one lot was found to be affected, the company has recalled five lots, distributed to retail locations and sold online in Washington, California, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. They were manufactured the week of June 6 – June 13, 2016, and have an expiration date of June 2020.

The recall applies to lot numbers starting with 1816E03HB, 1816E04HB, 1816E06HB, 1816E07HB, and 1816E13HB, The second half of the barcode reads 20109, which can be found on the back of the product label.

Evanger’s says all of its meat suppliers are USDA approved, and that it is still investigating how the substance entered their raw material supply.

Consumers who still have cans with the lot numbers should return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-847-537-0102 between 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM Central Time, Monday – Friday.

Evanger’s has apologized on its website, promised transparency and posted several updates for customers.

“We are sorry we let you down, but we will make a better pet industry because of it,” Evanger’s owners wrote. “First and foremost we are pet parents,” they wrote.

The Sher family said they paid veterinary bills for the four pugs in Washington state and made a donation to a local animal shelter.

Jeb is off death row, thanks to DNA test

jebheadshomeDNA evidence has cleared many an innocent man, but for what may be the first time ever it has been used to free a dog on death row.

Jeb, a Belgian Malinois, had been in the custody of St.Clair County animal control since Aug. 24 after being accused of killing a neighbor dog.

He was released to his owners in Port Huron, Mich., yesterday.

We first told you about the case at the end of September.

That’s when the judge who had ordered Jeb put down agreed to hear a motion putting off his euthanization pending the results of a DNA test on the dog who was killed.

That dog, a Pomeranian named Vlad, was found dead in his yard Aug. 24, and his owner, St. Clair resident Christopher Sawa, says he saw Jeb standing over his dog’s body. Both dogs were inside his backyard.

vlad

Vlad, the Pomeranian

Vlad was found with severe bruising over both shoulders and a puncture wound on his right front leg. There was another deep wound found on his left side that penetrated his chest and broke two ribs.

The veterinarian who examined Vlad said his injuries were consistent with being picked up and shaken by a larger animal.

Based on the circumstantial evidence, a district judge in Michigan ordered Jeb to be euthanized after hearing the evidence against him on Sept. 19.

Jeb’s owners, Pam and Kenneth Job, then asked the court to allow them time to have an independent lab conduct DNA tests on Vlad’s body — to see if traces of Jeb’s DNA could be found in his wounds.

In October, the judge issued a 30-day stay on the euthanization to allow the Jobs to conduct a DNA test.

DNA samples taken from Vlad did not match those of Jeb, according to a report issued by the University of Florida’s Maples Center for Forensic Medicine dated Oct. 24, the Detroit Free Press reported yesterday.

A consent judgment was signed yesterday that allowed the Jobs to take Jeb home.

jebfacebookpageThe judgment has conditions attached, including requiring the Jobs to provide fencing and insurance coverage, according to prosecutor Mike Wendling.

He said community members and animal advocacy groups have helped the family meet those terms.

Friends and family also started a “Free Jeb” Facebook page, on which the family yesterday posted a photo of Jeb on the way home.

A a petition at change.org requesting Jeb’s release received more than 98,000 signatures.

Could a DNA test prove dog’s innocence?

Up to now, DNA testing on dogs has been used mostly to satisfy owner curiosity over what breeds are in their mutt, or by apartment managers who want to identify dogs whose owners didn’t pick up after them.

Now comes a chance to put it to more noble use. (Cue up the “Law & Order” theme.)

jebThe owners of a Belgian Malinois accused of killing a neighbor dog say a DNA test could clear their dog of a murder rap.

A district judge in Michigan ordered Jeb, the Belgian Malinois, to be euthanized after hearing the evidence against him on Sept. 19.

But Jeb’s owners, Pam and Kenneth Job, have filed a motion for DNA testing to be conducted on the dead dog, a Pomeranian named Vlad.

Vlad died Aug. 24, and his owner, St. Clair resident Christopher Sawa, says he saw Jeb standing over his dog’s body. Both dogs were inside his backyard.

St. Clair County Animal Control took possession of Jeb after that.

Vlad was found with severe bruising over both shoulders and a puncture wound on his right front leg. There was another deep wound found on his left side that penetrated his chest and broke two ribs, the Detroit Free Press reported.

vladThe veterinarian who examined Vlad said his injuries were consistent with being picked up and shaken by a larger animal.

Ed Marshall, the lawyer for the Jobs, is asking the judge to allow them time to have an independent lab test conducted on Vlad’s body — to see if traces of Jeb’s DNA can be found in his wounds.

A hearing on his motion is set for Monday.

The Jobs say Jeb is an unofficial service dog who helps Kenneth with a condition that causes his muscles to deteriorate.

They say Jeb is a gentle soul and that Vlad’s death could have been caused by a fox or coyote, both of which can be seen from time to time in the rural area in which they live.