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Tag: experimental

Overdue: Yale law library tries therapy dog

At the Yale University Law Library, you can check out ”Legal Alchemy: The Use and Misuse of Science in the Law.” You can check out “The Supreme Court A to Z: A Ready Reference Encyclopedia.”

Or, you can check out Monty, a terrier mix whose mission, in an experimental program started this month, is to de-stress, during final exam time, the litigators of tomorrow.

You’d think a genius farm like Yale University would have figured out sooner — as some smaller and lesser known colleges have — that dogs can, physically and emotionally, help students through troubled or stressful times.

But, for the school whose mascot is an English bulldog named Handsome Dan, it’s better late than never.

In the pilot program, students can check out Monty – a  21-pound “certified library therapy dog” who provides 30-minute sessions of what ABCNews describes as “unconditional, stress-busting puppy love.”

“The interest in available slots has been high,” said Jan Conroy, a spokeswoman for Yale Law School.

In a March 10 memo, law librarian Blair Kauffman said she hoped the free, three-day pilot pet therapy program would be “a positive addition to current services offered by the library … It is well documented that visits from therapy dogs have resulted in increased happiness, calmness and overall emotional well-being.” The memo directed students to the website of Therapy Dogs International for more information.

The school has yet to decide if the program will be ongoing. Likely, it being Yale Law School, there are liability concerns — the type that are known to paralyze bureaucracies and often limit the good dogs can do, based on mostly baseless fears.

Monty, for example, though he is said to be hypoallergenic, will hold his visits in a “designated non-public space” in the library to eliminate “potential adverse reactions from any library user who might have dog-related concerns.”

Concerns have also been expressed about the sign-up list for Monty being in a visible spot. That, the overly fearful fear, results in students having to expose their need for a mental health session — or at least some time with a dog — in public.

Monty — whose full name is General Montgomery – belongs to librarian Julian Aiken. And the pilot program got started after a Yale legal blog jokingly suggested making Monty available for checkout.

Therapy dogs have been introduced at Tufts University in Massachusetts, Oberlin College in Ohio and UC San Diego to help students get through the pressures of mid-terms and finals.

Utah labs cease use of shelter animals

The University of Utah has announced that it will no longer purchase dogs and cats from North Utah Valley Animal Shelter (NUVAS) — or any other animal shelter — for use in medical experiments.

The decision was praised by PETA, which has waged a lengthy campaign against the practice.

“PETA is thrilled for the dogs, cats and people of Utah now that the University of Utah has stopped using animal shelters as dirt-cheap sources of living lab equipment, marking the complete end of pound seizure in the state,’’ said Kathy Guillermo, PETA’s vice president for laboratory investigations.

Until last year, animal shelters in Utah were required to sell cats and dogs in their custody to the university under a practice known as pound seizure. A change in state law made it voluntary for shelters to participate. The North Utah Valley Animal Shelter, however, continued to supply animals for research in the belief that it was helping to ease human suffering and advance medical knowledge.

NUVAS sold the university about 100 dogs and cats a year, Director Tug Gettling told the Salt Lake City Tribune.

The practice, over the years, saw hundreds of former pets and strays sacrificed for purposes of medical experimentation — though not all that were used in experiments were killed.  Last year, a pet owner who turned her dog, Sheena (above) over to the shelter was shocked to learn — when she called to see if she had been adopted — that the dog had been sold to the university for experimentation. Later, with help from PETA, she launched a successful campaign to get the dog back from the university and into an adoptive home.

According to the Tribune, the decades-old practice of buying animals from shelters was halted by the university in mid-January.

Thomas Parks, the university’s vice president for research, said the decision was aimed at bringing an end to the campaign against the shelter by animal welfare advocates. Parks said the university will instead obtain dogs bred for laboratory use by certified breeders — a costlier but less controversial method.

PETA’s Guillermo said she hoped the added cost of specially bred animals would lead the university to seek alternatives to using live animals in its experiments.

Parks said employees at the non-profit municipal shelter “have been suffering a lot of harassment” and that the shelter has received thousands of hostile emails and phone calls, several bomb threats and at least three public protests.

A Salt Lake Tribune investigation a year ago found that about 60 percent of all shelter animals the shelter provided to the university between 2007 and 2009 were killed after being experimented on, while the rest entered an adoption program.

Batman leaves a legacy of hope behind

batmandogWord came this week that Batman, the dog whose brain tumor was being successfully treated with an experimental gene therapy at the University of Minnesota, has died of pneumonia.

“I wanted to let you know that sadly we lost Batman a few weeks ago,” his owner, Anna Brailovsky, wrote ohmidog! in an email. “The very good news is that it was not to brain cancer, so we can still consider him to be a great success story.”

Brailovsky and her husband Eric Baker found Batman him on the streets of Berlin as graduate students in 1999. He returned with the couple to the United States in 2001, and was happy and healthy until he had a series of seizures in 2008.

A tumor was diagnosed and Batman ended up at the University of Minnesota, where Dr. Elizabeth Pluhar, a veterinary surgery professor, and John Ohlfest, a pediatrics professor, had been considering an experimental brain tumor treatment for about three years.

Batman underwent the procedure — which, though it had been tried on mice, had never used on a dog before. Surgeons removed most of Batman’s tumor, much of which was then used to make a vaccine for the dog.  A year later the tumor was gone.

The experimental treatment could someday help people with the same disease.

“The study now has many more dogs in various stages of treatment and recovery, and they are steadily moving toward developing the protocol for human trials,” Brailovsky said.

To keep Batman’s memory, she and her family created a website that tells his story and features a university-made video on his treatment:

 

“Every dog is special to his family, but we were extremely fortunate that Batman’s life also had an impact on the lives of many others,” the website says.

“In the 18 months following the surgery and vaccine protocol, Batman was almost entirely back to his normal,  self, and we cherished every extra trip to the park and every extra cuddle on the couch that the experimental treatment had granted us. It was a miraculous gift.

“Unfortunately, curing the brain tumor did not get rid of the seizures originally caused by the tumor growth. With his indefatiguable spirit, Batman repeatedly recovered from the aftermath of a half-dozen serious grand mal episodes that left him temporarily blind and weakened for hours, sometimes days, at a time. He always bounced back as strong and healthy as ever, and we are deeply saddened that our miraculous survivor has finally ran out of second chances.

“On Wednesday, January 13, 2010 Batman suffered a prolonged series of seizures (and likely a stroke) that left him with severe muscle damage and immobolized him for several days. A fighter to the last, he was beginning to regain his strength and appetite when he was suddenly overcome by rapidly progressing pneumonia on the morning of January 18…

“It was a heartbreaking decision, but we had to let him go. He died in his favorite place on the couch.”

Zap! Batman’s tumor disappears

p2batmanbIt has been a year since we last checked in on Batman – around the time researchers at the University of Minnesota began an experimental procedure to save him from an aggressive brain tumor.

The 13-year-old shepherd mix had a form of brain cancer called a glioma — the same type of cancer Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy is battling.

University of Minnesota veterinary surgeon G. Elizabeth Pluhar, who has spent the past year caring for Batman, said last week his tumor seems to have disappeared, according to the Associated Press.

“I don’t see any tumor right now,” she says. “Which is wonderful.”

Gliomas are tricky to treat because they send out little tentacles that infiltrate other parts of the brain, and surgery alone usually isn’t sufficient to cure a glioma.

Researchers from the vet school devised a treatment for Batman that began with surgery, followed by gene therapy and a custom-made, anticancer vaccine designed to boost his immune system.

Researcher John Ohlfest, who helped create the new immune therapies, said the vaccine is made up of dead cancer cells from Batman’s tumor that have been enhanced in a way that makes them much more obvious to the dog’s immune system.

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New therapy treats dogs with their stem cells

A German shepherd named Schultz has been having his own fat cells removed, shipped to San Diego to have the stem cells extracted, then having those injected back into his hips to treat dysplasia.

The experimental therapy, being tested by several veterinarians in western Pennsylvania, is promising, but expensive: Depending on how many joints need injections, the cost ranges from $2,400 to $3,000.

But, as veterinarian Mike Hutchinson, owner of Animal General, points out in a recent Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article, that’s still less than half the cost of hip replacement surgery.

“Basically, we make an incision behind the dog’s shoulder and take out a couple teaspoons of fat,” Hutchinson said  “We pack it up and ship it to Vet-Stem, they separate out the stem cells, send them back to us and we inject the cells back into the dog, where he needs them.”

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