Tag Archives: investigation

Congress extends limits on VA dog research


Congress has voted to extend its restrictions on dog testing at the Department of Veterans Affairs through fiscal year 2019.

In the experiments at McGuire VA Medical Center, dogs were implanted with pacemakers and forced to run on treadmills until they collapsed or died.

The practice came under restrictions last year after WRIC (8News) in Richmond brought it to the public’s attention. This week, WRIC reports, Congress has voted to continue those restrictions.

Under the legislation to continue limiting the research, federal tax dollars can not be used for the deadly dog experiments like the testing uncovered at McGuire unless there is absolutely no other alternative to using dogs.

If that is the case, the study will need direct approval from the VA Secretary.

8News first exposed the experiments in March of 2017.

In July, it reported that an employee at the medical center had come forward with photos of the experiments.

In September of last year, amid threats to defund the research, the VA announced it would be restricting and increasing oversight of the experiments in Richmond and similar experiments at two other VA facilities.

WRIC documented 39 cases in which dogs at McGuire, some of them puppies, had been surgically implanted with pacemakers and forced to run until they collapsed.

The VA says the research part of an on-going study into heart disease.

Over 50 house members on both sides of the aisle requested the measure to de-fund the animal testing be extended through fiscal year 2019.

The bill now heads to President Trump’s desk.

Who killed Evie: Dog dies while being trained in Ohio prison program


A rescue group’s German shepherd has died while participating in a prison program intended to bring out the best in both the dogs in need of adoption and the inmates who are caring for and training them.

Members of the dog rescue group Joseph’s Legacy said one of its dogs, Evie, died from blunt force trauma, while housed at the Warren Correctional Institution, a state prison in Ohio.

The program — similar to many operating successfully and without incidents across the country — was operated for years in partnership with 4Paws for Ability, whose primary mission is to train and provide service dogs to the disabled.

But in a comment sent to ohmidog!, officials of that organization say the have not been involved in the program at Warren Correctional for several years.

“4 Paws For Ability is not associated with WCI at all …. We pulled out of WCI a year ago due to a change in the prison inmate population. They simply have not removed us from their website. We are not involved in this incident in any way,” the comment )below) reads.

Joseph’s Legacy had been sending dogs for about a year to the program, which is one of more than 30 operated in conjunction with different nonprofits in the Ohio state prison system.

The rescue told WLWT none of their dogs will return after this incident.

Authorities are questioning the two inmates Evie shared a cell with.

Similar programs are up and running in at least 159 prisons in 36 states — most house the dogs they are working with in kennels, some let the dogs share cells with inmates. Most, like the one at Warren Correctional, require that inmates not have a violent past.

In a Facebook post, Joseph’s Legacy wrote:

“We have lost one of our own animals who we feel needs justice and her story told…

“These programs are meant to be great for the dogs and the inmates. These programs are supposed to be closely monitored by the prison staff. We were invited to join this program at Warren Correctional institution. Like most, we were excited to have our troubled dogs get their training and excited to help the program. Many dogs came, got trained and headed out to their forever homes…

“These programs are more risky than we had originally thought. Please use our Evie as an example to think twice if you are in a rescue considering these types of programs. We know it’s not everywhere but please keep Evie in mind.”

While questions about the two inmates working with the dog, and the prison’s supervision of the program, are mounting, it’s probably worthwhile to take a look also at what outside monitoring of the program took place — namely by the rescue organization which so willingly donated dogs to be trained and whatever outside organization, if any, was running it.

On the Ohio prison system’s website, 4Paws is still listed as the official partner in the program at Warren State Correctional, but 4Paws that is old information that has not been updated.

What organization is behind the prison program is not clear.

The rescue organization, in calling for “Justice for Evie,” says in its Facebook post that “we had volunteers regularly on site and observing the dogs progress and how the handlers were working with them.”

“Regularly” is open to wide interpretation.

Evie the German shepherd came under the care of Joseph’s Legacy in 2015 after getting hit by a car and breaking a hip. About that same time, she had babies and nursed them through her recovery.

After that, she was adopted, but because she was prone to escaping, soon was returned to the rescue.

“…We had thought maybe trying to get some more training, it would be safer for when she was adopted again…”

They enrolled her in the program at Warren Correctional and last week got the call that the dog had been found dead in her cell.

According to the Facebook post, a necropsy showed Evie died from blunt force trauma to her abdomen, causing her liver to hemorrhage and damaging a kidney.

The organization also stated that its concerns about the program had recently risen — but not to the point that they had removed Evie from it.

“Last week, we got a dog and she was all of a sudden fearful, so we were investigating and just making sure everything was good, but you’re talking just a few days later, this happened,” Joseph’s Legacy President Meg Melampy said.

The State Highway Patrol is investigating the death, and Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction will hold its own investigation at the prison, as well as review animal programs at other prisons, JoeEllen Smith, a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, told The Associated Press.

Most likely, prison authorities will quickly solve the mystery of who killed Evie. It is likely one inmate, or the other. But that inmate, directly responsible as he may be, is not the only one who deserves some scrutiny.

The state prison system needs to also ask some questions about itself, and the supervision it provided, keeping in mind that it’s not the concept behind the program that is at fault, but shortcomings in administering it. Those outside organizations involved in the program might be well served to take a look at themselves as well.

That would be justice not just for Evie, but for all dogs.

(Photos: From the Joseph’s Legacy Facebook page)

Another Wag! nightmare, and it’s a doozie


A Colorado dog owner says he came home to find his dog sitting his his own urine in a locked bedroom, his dog-sitter in the shower and two shirtless men sitting on his couch with a bottle of lubricant and a video camera.

Klete Keller, of Colorado Springs, told Fox 21 that upon his return home on Monday around 1 a.m., the sitter he had had hired through the dog-sitting service Wag! was nowhere to be seen.

He later learned she was taking a shower.

Keller said he asked the two men on the couch to leave. That’s when he noticed the open bottle of personal lubricant and camcorder.

Keller said the scene was “just a total mess,” and included “what I can only assume are bodily fluids on the couch.”

“I can only imagine what poor Jimbo saw in there,” he said in reference to his dog.

The unidentified dog-sitter told the news station she had been using the lubricant to remove her keys which were stuck in her car.

Wag!, the Uber-like dog-sitting service which Keller said he used to find someone to watch Jimbo, said in a statement that they are investigating what allegedly took place in Keller’s home and have suspended the dog-sitter.

“We have launched an investigation into this incident and have suspended the sitter from our platform. The circumstances around this incident are unacceptable, and we expect everyone on our platform to conduct themselves in a professional manner,” the statement read. “We have worked closely with the dog’s owner to restore his trust in Wag! and appreciate his understanding. The trust and safety of the Wag! community is very important to us.”

The company says it uses a thorough vetting process for their dog walkers and sitters, which includes a social security number trace and several criminal checks.

Keller’s dog-sitter had a 4.96 out of 5 star rating on Wag! and had a combined total of 305 dog walks and sittings. She passed all of the background checks, the company said.

(Photo of Jimbo from Klete Keller’s Facebook page)

Bassett hound is victim in sexual assault case involving MSU health physicist

hatteyMichigan State University has had its hands full with, and its coffers drained by, a sexual assault scandal involving the university physician who sexually abused young women under the guise of administering medical treatment.

Now comes another allegation, on behalf of a victim who is not a gymnast, but a bassett hound.

Joseph Hattey, a health physicist within MSU’s Environmental Health and Safety office, has been charged with two counts of bestiality.

Hattey, according to a press release by the Michigan attorney general’s office, penetrated the animal with his hand and his penis. It is not believed the crimes happened on the Michigan State University campus, and the dog was not one owned by the university.

Hattey, 51, had previously been assigned duties within the university’s Veterinarian Diagnostic Laboratory.

The bassett hound is in custody of Ingham County Animal Control.

An MSU spokesperson issued this statement:

“Michigan State University was informed by the MSU Police Department on April 17 of a criminal investigation against Joseph Hattey, a health physicist with the Environmental Health and Safety Unit (note this position does not work with students, patients or animals). Hattey was immediately put on administrative suspension, pending the investigation. The university has been and will continue to cooperate with law enforcement officials on this matter. MSUPD is providing digital forensic support in the investigation.”

Hattey entered a not guilty plea at his arraignment on the charges Monday. A preliminary hearing is set for June 21.

“These are merely allegations that have not been proven,” Hattey’s attorney, Alexander Rusek, told the Lansing State Journal. “Mr. Hattey pleaded not guilty in court today and looks forward to addressing the fact of the matter during the preliminary examination.”

Michigan State University has been rocked by a sex scandal involving a university physician who also served as doctor for the U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team.

The university, under the terms of a settlement, has agreed to pay $500 million to victims of Lawrence G. Nassar, who was sentenced to 40-125 years in prison.

That settlement is believed to be the largest ever reached in a sexual abuse case involving an American university.

Company was aware that euthanasia drug was present in its canned dog food

The TV station that disclosed the presence of the euthanasia drug pentobarbital in canned dog food — leading to the recall of 107 million cans — is staying on the case and reporting that the manufacturer was aware of, and remained silent about, even higher levels of the drug.

Earlier this year, ABC7 (WJLA) in Washington aired an investigative report on the drug being found in Gravy Train canned food.

A recall was later announced for Gravy Train and three other canned dog foods — Kibbles ‘N Bits, Ol’ Roy and Skippy, all of which, like Gravy Train, are made by Big Heart Brands, a subsidiary of Smucker’s.

Any levels of pentobarbital in dog food are concerning, as is the use of any drug-euthanized animal as a source of either human or pet food are outlawed.

The FDA (maybe recognizing a TV station was doing its job, maybe not) launched its own investigation into Smucker’s just hours after the report aired.

Big Heart Brands — saying its top priority is the “safety and quality of its products” — has maintained that the levels of pentobarbital detected in tests by the WJLA were far too low to be concerned about.

But WJLA reported last week that even higher levels — 80 times higher — have been found by the FDA.

According to a class action lawsuit against the company, the FDA found pentobarbital in the company’s fat supply, at levels at least 80-times higher than what the TV station discovered in products on the shelves.

And the company apparently had been alerted to that. It retained a sample of that fat from a full year earlier, in 2017, with levels of pentobarbital more than 50-times higher than the results that prompted the recall.

“It is an important fact because they retained it, yet they didn’t test it,” said attorney Rebecca Peterson, one of the attorneys handling one of the class action lawsuits against Smucker’s and its subsidiary, Big Heart Pet Brands “Or they did test it and they still went forward by including that tallow in the contaminated dog food.”

At issue is a rendered fat ingredient — the boiled byproduct of carcasses that contained the euthanasia drug pentobarbital.

In a statement, Smuckers said it has “robust quality assurance procedures in place, we are committed to enhancing sourcing and supplier oversight procedures to help ensure this does not happen again.”

Court documents allege the source of contaminated fat was the company’s supplier JBS.

JBS is also the subject of investigations related to E.coli contaminations and the inhumane treatment of animals.

In a statement, JBS stated it has modified it procurement process and “will divert all third-party sourced materials to non-edible production until the company can ensure these materials meet its high standards for quality and safety.”

Why does the drug we use to euthanize animals keep showing up in dog food?

Pentobarbital, part of the cocktail administered to dogs, cats and sometimes horses to euthanize them, continues to show up in dog food.

How that happens — and why it is allowed to — are questions raised in an investigative report last week by WJLA in Washington.

The station teamed up with Ellipse Analytics, a lab that specializes in testing food for contaminants,

gravytrainIn testing 62 samples of wet dog food, across more than two dozen brands, one brand came back positive for for the euthanasia drug pentobarbital. Nine of 15 cans of Gravy Train showed non-lethal levels of the drug.

Under federal law, no concentration of pentobarbital is permitted in pet food. WJLA reported the FDA didn’t initially seem too interested about its findings.

The agency declined requests for an on-camera interview, and referred the station to the Pet Food Institute — the trade organization that represents the pet food industry. Further requests for information from the FDA were met with the response that it will “investigate the matter and take appropriate enforcement action.”

It’s not the first time pentobarbital has been found in dog food.

About a year ago Evanger’s recalled some lots of its “Hunk of Beef” canned dog food after it was found to contain the sedative.

The company said at the time that the meat in question came from a cow rendered by a supplier, but, as WJLA reported, federal law does not allow use of the toxin to kill animals that are part of the food supply.

Gravy Train is made by Big Heart Pet Foods and owned by Smucker’s.

Big Heart Brands is also the maker of Meow Mix, Milk Bone, Kibbles’n Bits, 9 Lives, Natural Balance, Pup-Peroni, Gravy Train, Nature’s Recipe, Canine Carry Outs, Milo’s Kitchen, Alley Cat, Jerky Treats, Meaty Bone, Pounce and Snausages.

Dr. Nicholas Dodman, chief scientific officer for The Center for Canine Behavior Studies and former director of the Animal Behavior Program at Tufts University, said even non-lethal amounts of the drug should be a concern.

“Whether it’s doing something or nothing, what’s it doing there? Where did it come from? If they don’t like the explanation that it’s coming from animals that have been euthanized, what is their explanation as to how it gets in?” asked Dodman.

Smucker’s declined WJLA’s request for an on-camera interview, but issued a statement saying, “We launched and are conducting a thorough investigation, including working closely with our suppliers, to determine the accuracy of these results and the methodology used.”

Most believe pentobarbital, when it shows up in dog food, is a result of euthanized animals being blended into food by those who render the carcasses.

That, in itself is against federal laws that prohibits the use in both dog and human food of any animals that have not been slaughtered. Using euthanized animals is prohibited.

As Susan Thixton, a pet food consumer advocate told the station, “Billion dollar a year companies are making profit selling illegal adulterated products to unknowing consumers in the U.S. every day.”

She added, “The FDA tells industry ‘Yeah, it’s a violation of law, but go ahead, we’re not going to do anything,'” said Thixton.

Gang members arrested in China for selling poison darts used to kill dogs for meat

dog-thievesmain

Thousands of poisoned syringes that were sold to dog meat vendors to instantly kill dogs on the streets have been seized by police in China.

The police investigation led to the discovery of a ton of dead dogs at a storage facility in the eastern province of Anhui, and the arrest of eight gang members who were selling the weapon in 20 provinces and regions across the China, the news agency Xinhua said.

Police believe the gang sold more than 200,000 poisoned syringes to vendors who hunted pets on the street and traded their meat with restaurants.

The syringes contained a large enough dose of the muscle relaxant suxamethonium to kill the dogs instantly — and enough to be toxic to any human later consuming the dog’s meat.

Police said the needles were modified with a spring and a tailfin at the rear so they could be shot like a dart.

The Telegraph reported that the investigation into the gang began in September when police were tipped off by a postal worker who came across a suspicious package leaking a pungent smelling fluid.

syringesThey discovered 200 syringes in the package, and arrested the man who it was being delivered to in Huainan city, in Anhui.

Police then arrested two accomplices who shot the dogs in local streets, before finding a ton of frozen dogs at a nearby cold storage.

The men had frozen the meat and had planned to sell it in the winter.

Police also raided the gang’s workshop in central China’s Hubei Province, where they arrested another five men who were making the syringes.

At that site they discovered four kilograms of the chemical powder, 10,000 needles and 100,000 yuan, or more than $15,000, Xinhua said.

The poisoned darts have been in use for years. Two years ago, in Hunan province, a man who ran a dog meat-selling operation shot himself with one while demonstrating how to fire one with a crossbow. He died on his way to the hospital.

The other members of the operation were later arrested, and confessed to freezing the canine carcasses with the intention of selling the meat to restaurants.

“The dog meat trade in China is organized, large scale and facilitated by crime, with as many as 20 million dogs and four million cats killed every year,” said Wendy Higgins, from the Humane Society International. “Stopping the gangs involved is a major step in the right direction.”

She added: “The use of poison to catch dogs for the meat trade is a cruelty that very often sees people’s beloved pets targeted, and the animals involved can suffer enormously.”

Dog meat has long been consumed by humans in China and other Asian countries. It is eaten by a small minority of Chinese, and the practice is fading as dogs become a popular pet.