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Tag: experiments

Penny and Roo: A chicken and a Chihuahua

Roo, a Chihuahua, was found freezing in a ditch, where he’d apparently been discarded after being born with no front legs.

Penny is a silky chicken who was once used for experiments at an area veterinary school.

penny-rooBoth ended up at Duluth Animal Hospital in Georgia, where they’ve become best of friends, and a popular attraction.

The dog, believed to have been abandoned by a backyard breeder when he was just seven weeks old, was found on Christmas day, 2013, under some leaves in a ditch.

The chicken, once the undisclosed experiments she was part of were completed, was likely going to be put down, but an offer was made to adopt her.

Officially, both now belong to an employee at the animal hospital in Gwinnett, Alicia Williams, who brings Roo and Penny with work to her most days.

Williams, the client services receptionist at Duluth Animal Hospital, told Channel 2 Action News the dog and chicken became friends immediately, and some clients schedule appointments for their pets when they know the two will be there.

They’re gaining popularity nationwide, too, through the animal hospital’s Facebook page, and a video (above) recently posted on YouTube.

Roo manages to get around on just his hind legs, but he’s also been outfitted with a special wheelchair.

(Photo: On an outing during the recent Georgia snowfall, Penny and Roo left some interesting tracks / Facebook)

Killing dogs to make our smiles prettier

I’m a big fan of dogs, and not a fan of dentistry at all, so as you might expect I’ve got some problems with dogs being used to test out dental implants, in hopes of making better and safer ones for humans.

Especially considering that dogs are suffering and dying in the process, as The Humane Society of the United States  says is the case at Georgia Regents University.

The HSUS last week released this report, containing undercover footage obtained during its three-month-long investigation at GRU. The experiments lead to two questions in my mind.

First, since the research is supposed to benefit humans, why not use humans for the tests? I’m sure there are  plenty of people who are in need of dental implants and who, unable to afford them, might be willing to volunteer. I myself might take the risk, assuming that the researchers don’t insist on killing me afterwards to get a sample of my jawbone.

And that’s question number two: Why is it necessary to kill a dog after he’s already made an unwilling contribution to science — or at least a contribution to us humans being able to have gap-free permanent false teeth and not having to mess with things like denture adhesives?

As one dentist told the Humane Society, it’s not.

“In the two studies I reviewed, human research subjects could have been used, given that the products were already approved by the Food and Drug Administration and bone biopsies are commonly done in human studies,” said James P. Jensvold, DDS.

“Animals used in research are often ‘sacrificed’ at the end of the study, and this is accepted as standard practice without taking into consideration the unnecessary emotional and physical suffering that the animals must endure,” Jensvold added. “As a dental student and oral and maxillofacial surgery resident, I witnessed laboratory animals being treated as little different than a test tube, which is inconsistent with the values of compassionate healthcare.”

“Dogs don’t need to die for frivolous dental experiments,” said Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and CEO. “It’s painful to watch these forlorn dogs sacrificed for these questionable purposes…”

If you tend to distrust dentists, and Wayne Pacelle, perhaps you’ll believe actress Kim Basinger, who narrates the HSUS report:

“GRU buys dogs from a Class B dealer who’s under federal investigation,” she notes. “Dogs like Shy Guy, along with others, who may have been famiily pets, were all used for unnecessary dental experiments. Their teeth were pulled out and replaced. It’s very painful, just look into their eyes.”

dentastix(Dogs used in the experiments, after having their teeth removed, are given a canine version of dental implants, not human ones, like you find in those freakish — to me, anyway — ads for Pedigree Dentastix.)

The HSUS investigator witnessed dogs having  their teeth pulled out and replaced with implants. Once the experiments were over, the dogs were euthanized for a small sample of their jaw bone. GRU has been conducting dental implant research on random-source Class B dogs for years.

There are only six random-source Class B Dealers still active in the U.S. They are permitted to gather dogs and cats from various sources, including auctions, “free to good home” ads, online sources, flea markets, and even animal control and some shelter facilities — and resell them to research facilities. There have been cases of stolen pets ending up in research laboratories via ClassB dealers, the HSUS says.

The dealer who sold the dogs to GRU, Kenneth Schroeder, has previously been charged by the U.S. Department of Agriculture with violations of the Animal Welfare Act, including obtaining dogs from unauthorized sources, according to the HSUS.

Dr. Mark Hamrick, Senior Vice President for Research at Georgia Regents University, issued the school’s response to the HSUS allegations:

“As an institution, we are committed to research that will provide a direct benefit to patient lives by restoring function to damaged and diseased organs and tissues … The Food and Drug Administration, which provides oversight for medical device safety and procedures including dental implants, requires preclinical studies in animals demonstrating that the device or procedure is both safe and effective for its intended use in humans … The research being done with dogs is neither frivolous nor unnecessary, as alleged by the investigation, and is performed in order to develop safe, effective dental procedures for people.”

The HSUS says the studies are being done at the university in part to compare a dental implant invented by researchers at GRU, in conjunction with a private company, with that of a competitor.

According to the HSUS, 65,000 dogs per year are used for research, testing, and education in the U.S.

Dognition: Louie’s deemed a “socialite”


Didja hear the one about the blonde Fox News anchorwoman who took her golden retriever to get an IQ test?

While that has all the ingredients for a pretty good joke, it’s actually the basis of a pretty informative news report, in which Fox 8′s Katie Nordeen brought her dog Louie to Duke University scientist Brian Hare to find out just exactly what type of dog genius he — Louie, not Dr. Hare — is.

Hare, co-author of “The Genius of Dogs,” is the founder of Dognition, a research firm that puts dogs through a series of science-based games designed to assess their personality type — information that Hare says can help dog owners better understand their dogs.

Users of the service (it costs $39) don’t get to bring their dog to Hare, as Nordeen did, but get a “toolkit” and instructions on how to conduct the experiments in their own homes.

The experiments measure five dimensions: cunning, empathy, communication, reasoning and memory, and by virtue of the results, dogs are judged to be one of nine types –  Ace, Maverick, Charmer, Socialite, Protodog, Renaissance Dog, Expert, Stargazer, or Einstein.

Customers, after submitting their test results, receive a full report explaining their dog’s type, and how the conclusion was reached.

Louie, for example, was found to be a socialite.  (You can read Dognition’s full report on Louie here.)

“… Gracefully interacting and communicating with others requires talent. In Louie’s case, she takes this talent to a whole new level – it is definitely her genius. Although Louie is not as adept at independent problem-solving skills as other dogs, don’t jump to any conclusions about her intelligence. Louie relies on a very specific strategy – using you and other humans in her pack to get what she wants.”

(Yes, they got Louie’s sex wrong in the report, but they are personality experts, not gender experts.)

Cutsomers also have the option of becoming members of Dognition (for an additional $60 for a year, or $5 a month), entitling them to receive tailored training tips and activities and get a discount for testing additional dogs.

Hare says Dognition, established last year, is proving popular, with thousands of users from around the world.

“Everybody wants to understand what’s going on inside of a dog’s head. It has not been hard to get people excited about this.”

After visiting Dognition’s lab in Durham for the FOX8 report,  Nordeen continued conducting the experiments at home over the next two weeks. Once submitting her findings, the results were delivered, by email, almost instantly.

Hare says the purpose of Dognition is to enrich people’s relationships with their dogs, but it, like his book, is also aimed at showing the public how truly brilliant dogs are.

“Dogs were thought to be totally unremarkable. There were really no interesting things they could do relative to say dolphins or bonobos, so people were focusing on these other animals,” he said. “But at our feet, literally, were geniuses that had been undiscovered … What makes dogs such geniuses is that, relative to other species, they’re really skilled, really flexible, in understanding what it is we want and what we’re trying to tell them.”

The Dognition tests, in their at-home version, may not be the hardest of science, and their results may not be irrefutable. But given the firm’s stated goals, given the not entirely exorbitant price tag, and given that they’re fun and result in people spending more time with their dogs, I think they have a place in the spectrum of doggie evaluation services.

If people are willing to pay more than $100 to determine what breeds are in their dogs, through DNA testing, $39 doesn’t seem like too much to pay to assess that dog’s personality — and may even provide more telling clues into what makes them tick.

I haven’t run my dog Ace through the online Dognition drill yet, in part because I think his genius is too vast to be measured and could forever skew Dognition’s data base, in part because I already know he’s a charmer, with shades of socialite and Einstein. But Nordeen’s report answered a lot of questions I had about the service, and one of these days, I’ll give it a try.

We’ll close with some bloopers, courtesy of Fox 8, that occured while Nordeen and Louie were taping a promo for the piece — none of which, I’m sure, had anything to do with them being blond:

Calling all “Freegles”: Beagles rescued from N.J. lab will celebrate one year free

It’s the one-year anniversary for 120 beagles who, around this time last year, learned the true meaning of independence.

Up until then, even here in the land of the free, they weren’t.

Instead, like thousands of other beagles bred and born for the sole purpose of laboratory use, they’d never experienced what most dogs take for granted — things like grass and dirt and running — and were destined, once their use in testing was complete, for something quite contrary to a loving home.

The beagles had been left locked in a research facility operated by Aniclin Preclinical Services in Warren County, N.J. after its parent pharmaceutical company went bankrupt. When their situation came to light, a judge order the dogs turned over to rescue groups.

One year ago, a group of them were welcomed to Pets Alive Animal Sanctuary in New York, where work began on socializing them so they could be adopted out as family pets.

This coming Sunday, some of them will gather for a reunion.

About 35 of the adopters stay in touch on Facebook, offering support and following each others progress through photos and stories.

They — and any of the others who adopted a “freegle,” as they are prone to calling the dogs rescued from the laboratory — are gathering July 10, from 12:30 to 4 p.m., at Kennedy Dells Park, 355 North Main Street in New City, New York.

Among those attending will be a beagle named Grace, who has her own Facebook page, called Saving Grace. Grace’s owner said that while word of the reunion has gotten out among those who stay in touch, other beagles adopted from the group are also invited, as well as everyone else who participated in rescuing them.

Shelters, sanctuaries, volunteers and staff are “most welcome to attend and meet the families and hear the stories of how the Freegles have been adjusting to the good life.”

(For questions or to RSVP, send an email to labfreegles@yahoo.com.)

Unlike some boisterous beagles you may know from the dog park, laboratory beagles are generally calm and passive, having never tasted of freedom.

I met several lab beagles while researching my book — including some flourescent beagle clones in South Korea. In Texas, I interviewed the woman who cared for the beagles used in attempting to clone a dog at Texas A&M University.

Jessica Harrison, a graduate student at the time, was in charge of socializing the beagles and finding adoptive homes for them — not usually the case or fate of laboratory beagles — after their services in the lab were no longer required.

“What they teach them is to be still,” she told me. “As puppies, they teach them to just freeze when a person messes with them. We had to kindo of undo that and say, ‘No,we want you to move around and be excited.’

“We slowly exposed them to all the things they’d be exposed to in a family home — like TVs, mirrors, grass, trees, flowers, birds and bees. These dogs had never seen any of that. You put them down on the grass, and they’re like, ‘What’s this?’ It was kind of overwheliming. You get used to it, but at first it’s like, these are dogs, how can they not know these things?”

The use of dogs in laboratory research was declining, but it has jumped up in recent years, with much of the increase due to advancements in, and the promise of, gene therapy.

(Photos: Top photo from the Facebook page of Freegles Justice and Skipper; bottom photo by John Woestendiek)

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.

PETA seeks probe of Texas researchers

PETA has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture calling for an immediate investigation of how the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston is treating the dogs, monkeys, sheep, goats, ferrets and mice being used in experiments.

PETA says a whistleblower has informed them that the animals are being intentionally burned, mutilated, and cut open for experiments the organization describes as “cruel.” Also at issue, PETA says, are claims that the animals are receiving inadequate veterinary care, and are being neglected and handled carelessly by improperly trained staff.

The unidentified whistleblower told PETA that researcher Daniel Traber has subjected sheep, pigs, and mice to third-degree burns on up to 40 percent of their bodies and forced the animals to inhale smoke from burning cotton. UTMB experimenters also intentionally caused spinal cord and sciatic nerve injuries in sheep, PETA says.

“Our source also reports the following: UTMB faculty members cut open dogs and surgically implanted tubes into their colons for irritable bowel experiments. One dog reportedly died during surgery, and another died in pain following surgery when staff members did not provide anesthetics and were apparently unable to use the monitoring equipment correctly.”

PETA says it has has repeatedly reached out to UTMB through letters and phone calls to discuss the alleged violations, but has gotten no response. A PETA petition urges  UTMB to “immediately conduct a thorough investigation of the university’s laboratories and dismiss any employees whose incompetence, negligence, or outright cruelty are found to have contributed to increased pain and misery for animals.”

PETA highlighted Traber, of UTMB Department of Anesthesiology, two years ago in its “Vivisector of the Month” column, which reported that:

“Traber … has made a living for almost three decades by burning animals’ skin off. In a recent experiment, he either torched mice with a Bunsen burner until more than 40 percent of their bodies was charred or forced them to inhale smoke. A few select mice got the full treatment—they were both burned and forced to inhale smoke. Some died during the experiment, and survivors were subsequently killed.

“In another study, Traber heated an aluminum bar to nearly 400 degrees with a Bunsen burner and roasted the skin of live pigs on it for 30 seconds, creating a series of deep burns that covered 15 percent of their bodies. In order to repair the deliberately injured animals, Traber and colleagues then removed skin from the pigs’ legs to graft over the areas that had been burned off. After living through all this torture, the pigs were killed. Again, this is only his most recent work—Traber has been burning, mutilating, and killing sheep for years.”

Laboratory use of dogs on the upswing

Given the endlessly rising popularity of dogs, and our increasing emotional attachment to them, medical researchers who use them for experiments can expect stronger and growing opposition to the practice from the public, a leading expert in canine-human interaction told a conference at Johns Hopkins University this week.

James Serpell, director of the Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, was the keynote speaker at a conference sponsored by the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing at the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The 30-year-old, non–profit center promotes humane science by supporting the creation, development and use of alternatives to animals in research, product safety testing, and education. It seeks ways to replace animals with non-animal methods, reduce the numbers of animals necessary, or refine methods to make them less painful or stressful to the animals involved

Serpell and other speakers both pointed out that after decades of declining, the use of dogs in medical research has increased in the last couple of years.

U.S. Department of Agriculture figures show that the number of dogs used in medical research and testing dropped from 200,000 in 1973 to 66,000 in 2007, said Tanya Burkholder, chief of the Small Animal Section at the National Institutes of Health. Now, she said, the number has risen to about 75,000 a year.

Much of the increase is likely a result of advancements in, and the promise of, gene therapy.

Ivan Pavlov

Dogs have always been a valuable research model for scientists, going as far back as Aristotle’s day. Their size, physiology and cooperative behavior have made them convenient models for scientists, who, like Pavlov’s dog, grew conditioned to using them in experiments.

While public opposition to subjecting dogs to medical experiments resulted in the practice dwindling in recent decades, the use of dogs has crept up again in the last two years due to advances in molecular biology, genetics and the sequencing of the canine genome.

Because dogs get about 220 of the same inherited diseases and disorders that humans do — including Alzheimer’s, muscular dystrophy, hemophilia and retinal degeneration – medical researchers are able to study the underlying genetic defects and, through dogs, seek cures.

This means dogs are being bred to be born with the diseases in colonies at U.S. universities and research institutes and, in the case of South Korea, cloned to be born with the diseases.

No one at the conference went so far as to suggest a halt to using dogs in research, but Serpell warned that the practice does come with risks, and a price.

Dogs evoke protective and nurturing instincts in people, and those have grown stronger as the dog-human relationship has evolved — to the point that dogs are viewed more as family members than family pets. Public opposition to the laboratory use of dogs has continually grown in the last few decades.

Researchers need to be cognizant not just of society’s strong feelings about dogs, but also about dog’s strong feelings for humans, Serpell said.  “Many dogs undergo severe distress when contact with a human is limited or thwarted. We don’t give that regard sufficient credence,” he said.

The stronger attachment to dogs is in part due to breeders focusing on creating animals for purposes of human companionship, unlike in the past when they were bred for the work they could do. Serpell noted that baby-like features, for one thing, appeal to humans.

Showing photos of dogs, Serpell pointed to one and said, “This animal looks like it was invented by Walt Disney.”

Our attraction to dogs stems too from the fact that they make eye contact with humans more than any other species, and studies have shown that petting, or even looking, at a dog increases our levels of oxytocin.

“These dogs are turning us on by looking at us,” he said.

Our evolving closeness to dogs has implications for the laboratory, he noted, and perhaps all of society.

Serpell pointed to commentator Tucker Carlson’s recent statement that dogs are the social equals of humans, and that therefore Micheal Vick should have been executed for killing them.

“Lots of people feel the same way,” he said.

Sheena avoids becoming a lab experiment

A mutt named Sheena will live to see Christmas.

Sheena’s former guardian, identified only as Gayle, surrendered the dog to the North Utah Valley Animal Shelter (NUVAS) in hopes of finding her a new home, according to the PETA Files

Sheena wasn’t getting along with another dog in the house and Gayle could not afford to keep three large dogs.

After surrendering Sheena, Gayle, visited the dog several times at the shelter in Lindon, Utah, to make sure that she was being cared for. One day, though, when Gayle called to check on the dog, she was told Sheena was gone.

Shelter staff informed her that Sheena had been sold to the University of Utah, and declined to say much beyond that.

Gayle contacted the university to determine whether Sheena was still alive, then called PETA’s emergency hotline, which informed her that NUVAS regularly sells dogs — some of them the same ones they feature on their website as cute, cuddly and adoptable — to the university for use in medical experiments.

According to PETA, dogs recently purchased by the university from the animal shelter have had holes cut into their chests and necks, and pacemakers implanted onto their hearts in order to induce irregular heartbeats; the dogs were then killed and dissected.

(A PETA petition urging the shelter’s board of directors to cease the practice can be signed here.)

Gayle called the university and demanded her dog back, and with assistance from PETA found a foster home where Sheena will stay until a permanent home can be found.

(Photo: Courtesy of PETA)

Utah shelter selling dogs for experiments

“Very cute.” “Cuddly.” “Enjoys belly rubs.”

That’s how the North Utah Valley Animal Shelter (NUVAS) described the dogs in its care that were up for adoption — some of the same dogs it later sold for use in university laboratories.

PETA says the dogs were sold to the University of Utah and used for “deadly and invasive” experiments: 

“Dogs recently purchased from the animal shelter had holes cut into their chests and necks and pacemakers implanted onto their hearts in order to induce irregular heartbeats; the dogs were then killed and dissected.”

North Utah Valley Animal Shelter is the only animal shelter in Utah that continues to sell animals entrusted to its care for use in experiments, according to PETA’s blog, The Peta Files.

PETA conducted an undercover investigation and says it found more than 100 animals were purchased from shelters by the University of Utah.

Demonstrations have been held at the shelter, with activists handing out leaflets that warned of the possibility that surrendered dogs and cats could end up being used in experiments. Activists personally rescued two surrendered cats, Angel and Libby, who might have otherwise ended up being used in experiments. The organization is urging supporters to join a campaign calling for an end to the shelter’s practice.

You can learn more about the campaign here.

Laboratory beagles nearly all adopted

The 120 beagles rescued from a bankrupt New Jersey laboratory earlier this month are learning life’s simple pleasures — chief among them, the joy of grass.

Having spent their entire lives in cages, the beagles were turned over to rescue groups on the 4th of July weekend. They had been left behind, along with 55 monkeys, when Aniclin Preclinical Services in Warren County, N.J., went out of business in April.

The beagles were taken to Pets Alive, where the video above was shot, and since then, in a joint effort by several rescue organizations — they’ve been taught how to be dogs, as opposed to specimens.

As of Friday, all but 15 had been adopted, and those were expected to be placed soon, Pets Alive reported on its website.

Some of the beagles have taken more quickly to freedom than others, according to this dispatch, on the Best Friends website:

“For the first few days, volunteers would show up at Pets Alive and want to walk the beagles. Ordinarily, this would be welcomed help. But before the Great Escape, the beagles had never been outside, so a common item like a leash is a foreign object from outer space. When everything is new, it’s important not to introduce too much at once because if the dogs become too overwhelmed they can withdraw and shock becomes an issue.

“But these dogs are resilient. Every day, they are increasingly curious and decreasingly timid. So after slow stepping it for a week, today, the walks began.

“With the help of wonderful volunteers, like John, the dogs were each walked more times today then all the days of their previous lives combined. For most of the dogs, it was a bit of a painstaking experience. Take a step. Stop. Look around. Step. Freeze. Move backward. Take a step.

“But one dog, Rex, took to walking like a fish to water. In fact, it wasn’t long before he was racing laps around the play yard. With those beagle ears flapping in the wind …

“But while Rex was at the head of the class, little Millie was sitting in the back of the room hoping nobody would notice her. Millie is a sweet little girl who has captured the heart of all of us involved with the rescue. She has struggled with all the changes, at times being outgoing and jovial and then quickly changing to withdrawn and timid.

“Today, when a young couple came in to find a female beagle to adopt, Millie didn’t give them much to work with. She was curled up tight in her kennel, with her back to all potential adopters and her face tucked under her legs. Motionless, she stayed like a ball. Trying to shut everyone out. But something about this family told me Millie was the perfect dog for them…

“It took a good 20 minutes before Millie and the couple were warming up to each other. An hour later? Millie was strutting, on a leash, down the driveway with her tail wagging, heading home with her new family.”

(Photo: Rex running, by Becky Tegze / Courtesy of Best Friends)