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Tag: experiments

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Opponents of the dog research say much of that research hasn’t translated to humans and that the VA is relying on outdated models that don’t fully take into account scientific advances that may provide alternatives to dogs as research subjects.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

Two charged in PETA’s continuing protest of Texas A&M muscular dystrophy research

Two PETA protesters were forcibly removed from the University of Texas Board of Regents meeting Wednesday after demanding the board stop funding research at Texas A&M that breeds dogs with muscular dystrophy to create puppies with the disease for use in experiments to find a cure.

PETA has long been campaigning to bring an end to the long-running research project — a cause whose supporters include comedian Bill Maher, and former A&M quarterback Ryan Tannenhill, both of whom have characterized the research as cruel.

The leader of the research, Joe Kornegay, has defended the project by saying it seeks to find a cure for the debilitating disease in both humans and dogs, and that — doomed as they might be to a life of suffering — dogs brought into the world for use in the experiments are treated well.

He says they breed dogs with the disease because they can’t otherwise find enough canine participants who are already afflicted.

On Wednesday, in PETA’s latest protest, two shouting, sign-carrying members of the organization were removed from the meeting and charged with hindering proceedings by disorderly conduct.

A second protest, with fewer than a dozen participants, was staged along the Capital of Texas Highway, near the hotel where the regents were meeting, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

“We’re asking them to stop funding Texas A&M while these labs continue,” said Matt Bruce, an organizer for PETA.

PETA says the dogs spend their short lives in cages and struggle to swallow and walk as the disease progresses. They are also subjected to being placed in a mechanical device that stretches, and often tears, their muscles, PETA says.

PETA says the experiments have failed to produce a single effective treatment for human muscular dystrophy in 35 years and don’t justify the misery the dogs are put through.

A modern day Dr. Frankenstein?

A controversial neurosurgeon in Italy said this week that he and his fellow researchers may be able to conduct the first human head transplant next year.

We suggest they start with their own.

Dr. Sergio Canavero has been compared to Dr. Frankenstein, and called a nut, but that hasn’t stopped him and members of his consortium — from China, South Korea and the U.S. — from severing the spinal cord of the beagle above (just so they could try to reattach it) and doing the same with numerous mice.

If that’s not weird enough, Canavero and team say that before they attempt a head transplant on a live human, they will conduct some experiments on human corpses, and then reanimate them with electricity to test his technique.

We can only assume they will do so in the basement laboratory of a castle, during a thunderstorm.

canaveroCanavero is director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group. He released three papers this week, and the video above, showing how he and his collaborators had successfully reattached the spinal cords of the dog and several mice.

Canavero also claims that researchers led by Xiaoping Ren at Harbin Medical University have already performed a head transplant on a monkey – connecting up the blood supply between the head and the new body.

Canavero’s short term goal is to successfully transplant a human head. His long term goal, he admits, “is immortality.”

What’s an acceptable number of dogs to torture in a quest of that nature?

We’d say none.

Canavero says the experiments on animals prove the technique used — known as GEMINI spinal cord fusion — incorporates a chemical called polyethylene glycol, or PEG, to encourage neurons to grow toward each other and connect.

He suspects it will also work in humans to fuse two ends of a spinal cord together, or to connect a transplanted head to a donor body.

He made the claims in a series of papers published in the journal Surgical Neurology International.

The claims have been met with widespread skepticism, according to New Scientist.

Canavero first announced his plans to conduct a human head transplant in 2013 and established the ead Anastomosis Venture, or HEAVEN, project to develop the techniques needed to carry out such an operation.

His collaborator in South Korea is Dr. C-Yoon Kim, a neurosurgeon at Konkuk University in Seoul who partially severed and reattached the spinal cords of 16 mice. Five of the eight mice who received PEG regained some ability to move. The other three died — as did eight who were in a control group.

In another experiment the South Korean team nearly severed the spinal cord of a dog. While the dog was initially paralyzed, three days later the team reported it was able to move its limbs and wag its tail.

South Korea is also the birthplace of dog cloning and up until this summer — when an American company cloned a dog for a customer — it was the only country cloning dogs for profit.

It’s probably not too outlandish — given all the bizarre turns medical researchers are taking — to wonder if surplus canine clones in South Korea end up being used for other wacky experiments by mad (or at least overly zealous) scientists.

In fact, if you look at its history, creating dogs for medical research use was one markets mentioned by the developers and marketers of dog cloning.

Could it be that some of the ideas initially presented in science fiction might ought to remain in the realm of science fiction?

Canavero’s research papers don’t indicate how many more dogs might have their necks snapped or heads severed by his research team as they boldly and single-mindedly stride toward their goal.

But, again, we’d argue that — no matter what medical gains it could lead to for humans — it should be NONE.

And then there were two: Class B dog dealers are all but gone, HSUS says

From 2/25/2013 to 5/24/2013, an HSUS investigator worked as a Husbandry Technician at Georgia Regents University (GRU). During her time at GRU, the HSUS investigator cared for rodents, primates and dogs. She also documented violations of: the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA). NIH's Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. The dogs were used in a dental implant experiment: at the end of the experiment the dogs were killed. The primates were being used in various experiments. Some of the primates exhibited stereotypical behaviors (i.e. pacing, doing "flips" in their cages, pulling out and eating their hair, etc. One primate drank his urine from his penis). The dogs came from Kenneth Schroeder (Wells, MN), a Class B Dealer currently (8/28/2013) under investigation by the USDA. Keywords: dog, end animal testing, ARI, animal research issues, Class B

The largest of the country’s three remaining Class B dog dealers — those often unscrupulous sorts who scrounge up dogs and sell them to laboratories for use in experiments — is going out of business.

The Humane Society of the United States reported yesterday that Ohio-based dealer Robert Perry has cancelled his license with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

That means only two licensed “random source” dealers remain. Class B, or random source, dealers round up dogs from flea markets, shelters, auctions, Craigslist and other sources and sell them to research institutions.

“These merchants of cruelty are on their last gasps, and this announcement gets us one big step closer to the complete demise of this sordid trade,” Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States,  writes on the HSUS blog, A Humane Nation.

Perry has been supplying dogs for years to a number of institutions, including Ohio State University. Between October 2013 and October 2014, OSU purchased nearly 50 dogs from Perry, making him the biggest random source supplier of dogs used in research nationwide.

Of the two remaining Class B dealers, one had only four dogs in its most recent inventory and the other is facing formal enforcement action from the USDA, according to HSUS.

At one time there were more than 200 licensed Class B dealers in the United States. By 2013, as a result of a decline in the use of dogs in laboratories and opposition from groups like HSUS, Last Chance for Animals, the Doris Day Animal League, and the Animal Welfare Institute, that number was down to six

Last year’s announcement from the National Institutes of Health that it would no longer fund research that used random source dogs served as a final nail in the coffin for Class B dog dealing.

The NIH decision stemmed from a report issued by the National Academy of Sciences that found random source dealers could not guarantee that people’s pets would not end up in laboratories.

Those dogs who are bred for laboratory research — commonly beagles — weren’t directly affected by that decision, but, as Pacelle notes, they are being used less often by laboratories, too.

“The continuing and rapid decline of these random source Class B dealers means the chances of pets ending up in laboratories are now very low,” Pacelle said.” And we’re perhaps closer to the day when fewer dogs of any kind are used in testing and research.”

(Photo: A “random source” dog that was used in dental experiments at Georgia Regents University that were the subject of an HSUS investigation; courtesy of HSUS)

Wayne State urged to end dog experiments

wsurally

A physician’s organization led a rally this week urging Wayne State University to end its long-running series of cardiac research experiments on dogs.

About 45 people joined in the protest, led by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

According to the nonprofit organization, the heart failure experiments have been going on for 20 years, at a cost to taxpayers of about $8 million, and have provided no information beneficial to treating human heart disease.

No dogs leave the program alive.

“These research experiments have not garnered anything that has advanced human health,” said Jennifer Giordano, a Detroit-area doctor representing the committee. “We want them to use human-relevant research methods.”

In the experiments, heart problems are induced in the dogs by the use of implanted electrodes, which cause their heart rates to more than double.

The dogs are then put through multiple surgeries and are required to run on treadmills. About 25 percent of the dogs die during or after the surgery. Those who do survive are euthanized when their participation is no longer needed.

The experiments are funded in part by the National Institutes of Health.

At the Wednesday rally the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine presented a letter signed by actress Lily Tomlin to Wayne State University officials, calling on them to end medical experiments on dogs. Tomlin is a Detroit native and attended the university.

In the letter, Tomlin wrote: “I understand that Wayne State is spending millions of taxpayer dollars using dogs in heart failure experiments that have not benefited human health in any way. I urge you to end these senseless experiments as soon as possible.”

A copy of the letter was given to Matt Lockwood, a university spokesman who came to the rally and a read a statement defending the experiments, the Detroit News reported.

“Almost every medical advance in the last 100 years was due to research on animals — chemotherapy, hip replacements, transfusions, dialysis — was all tested on dogs,” Lockwood said. “We need to continue to do research to advance science.”

He said the animals in the experiments are under the constant supervision of veterinarians.

“There’s a committee that’s sole purpose is to ensure the animals are as comfortable as possible,” he said. “We’re also under the oversight of the federal government and the state. Never once has any animal been found to have been mistreated at any time.”

He said the dogs are euthanized after taking part in the experiments, but he declined to provide numbers.

(Photo: Daniel Mears / Detroit News)

Fort Worth vet admits to keeping five “euthanized” dogs alive to harvest blood

leonberger

Sid, the Leonberger, apparently wasn’t the only dog a Fort Worth veterinarian promised to euthanize, then kept alive for the purpose of harvesting blood.

Millard “Lou” Tierce III, owner of Camp Bowie Animal Clinic, told investigators in a written statement that there were at least five dogs that — after assuring owners he was going to euthanize their pets — he secretly kept alive for blood transfusions and experimentation.

tierceTierce was arrested April 30 and charged with animal cruelty.

The Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners has scheduled a hearing on whether Tierce, whose license has been temporarily suspended, should face permanent suspension.

That’s scheduled for May 9 in Austin, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The investigations of Tierce began when Sid’s owners filed a complaint against him.

Marian and James Harris said they took their 170-pound Leonberger to Tierce’s clinic in May 2013 for a minor gland problem. Tierce kept the dog at his clinic for six months, during which time he performed cold laser therapy. In October, though, he told the couple the dog should be euthanized due to a birth defect in his spine.

The couple agreed to have Sid euthanized, and Tierce promised to bury the dog at his farm.

Last month, though, a former clinic employee told the Harrises that Sid was still alive, and being kept in a cage for all but 30 minutes a day.

Upon learning that, the Harrises went to the clinic and removed their dog.

On April 29, the board conducted a clinic inspection and found “animal organs were kept in jars throughout the clinic. Bugs were visible in exam rooms. Stacks of drugs, trash, laundry, paperwork and other miscellaneous material were strewn about the examination rooms, hallways, stairwells, operating room, laboratories and offices of the clinic.”

Board investigators received a signed, handwritten statement from Tierce that he had accepted five animals for euthanasia and had kept them at his clinic without euthanizing them, the report stated.

Fort Worth police also went to the clinic on April 29, along with an outside veterinarian who concluded three other dogs being held there were suffering so much they should have been euthanized — including one who belonged to Tierce.

According to Tierce’s arrest warrant, a clinic employee told police that Tierce’s dog, a border collie, had been lying on a pallet in the same spot since she started work in June, without receiving medical treatment.

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)