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Tag: milwaukee

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


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Opponents of the dog research say much of that research hasn’t translated to humans and that the VA is relying on outdated models that don’t fully take into account scientific advances that may provide alternatives to dogs as research subjects.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

When the Most Valuable Player is a dog


It’s a wonderful story — what the Milwaukee Brewers did for Hank.

By taking in the stray dog that wandered into their spring training camp in Arizona, and bringing him back with them to Milwaukee, they assured the little bichon frise mix of having food, shelter, medical care and the love of not just a whole team, but hordes of fans.

hankapWhich brings us to part two of the story — what Hank is doing for the Milwaukee Brewers.

As anyone who has rescued a dog knows, you generally get far more out of the deal than you put in.

That’s quickly becoming the case with the Brewers — a team whose fans didn’t have too much to cheer about last season, in terms of wins, attendance, or highly adored superstar players, like the great Hank Aaron, after whom Hank the dog was named.

The summer of 2013 saw the Brewer’s biggest star, Ryan Braun, the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 2011, suspended for most of the season for using performance-enhancing drugs.

hankmerchHank, we’re certain, won’t fall into that trap. And already he has given fans something to feel good about, judging from the turnout at a Hank “meet and greet.” Hundreds lined up to say hello to Hank, or pick up a souvenir from the Brewer’s new line of Hank merchandise.

The Brewers front office is making the most of the fluffy little mutt. As team spokesman Tyler Barnes noted, one couldn’t have dreamed up a more effective publicity stunt.

“I wish I was smart enough to have thought of this as a stunt,” he said at a recent event held to introduce Hank to Brewers fans. Hundreds lined up to meet the dog in the stadium gift shop.

“The Brewers have promised not to exploit Hank, though they didn’t say anything about making a few bucks along the way,” wrote Journal Sentinel sports columnist Jim Stingl. “You know a bobblehead is in his future.”

Some readers of the paper are saying enough with all the Hank coverage:

“Still with these DOG STORIES,” bemoaned one reader. “It’s sad I know more about the happenings of a dog that is a ‘Stray’ then I do of the Brewers and how their Spring Training went. This Dog got more coverage, and still is, then the actual team. And I applaud the Brewers for their great marketing tactic while removing the spotlight from the status of the team and cloud of Braun. Can the Newspaper please report about Baseball and not a dog, millions of dogs everywhere are offended they are not getting the same treatment, and once someone or something is offended things must change.”

We don’t entirely follow the logic toward the end of that reader comment — especially the part about millions of offended dogs. Dogs aren’t spotlight-seekers. That’s just humans.

But the newspaper did, for some reason, feel the need to say, in a blog post, that it might not be reporting on every single thing that happens in Hank’s everyday, non-official, non-Brewer related life:

“That everyday life doesn’t generate stories every day. We’ll have Hank Watch updates when events happen — but there will be days when they don’t,” the post read.

Meanwhile, Hank is living his new everyday life at the home of Marti Wronski, vice president and general counsel for the Brewers, and how often he’ll be making appearances in the stadium is still being figured out.

Wronski said that while “we’re giving Hank a home … it’s very clear this dog is the fans’ dog.”

hank crowdHank flew to Milwaukee earlier this month on a chartered flight with Brewers executives, and several hundred fans showed up to greet him at the airport, including the mayor of Milwaukee, bearing peanut butter treats, according to the Brewers.

Hank merchandise went on sale last week, including T-shirts, buttons and pennants.

The team is giving a portion of proceeds from those sales to the Wisconsin Humane Society,

(Photos: Hank dozes off during his meet and greet at Miller Park; by Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Hank in Arizona, by Morry Gash / Associated Press; fans line up to meet Hank at Milwaukee’s Miller Park, by Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The stray that showed up at spring training


A walk-on has joined the Milwaukee Brewers during spring training in Arizona, and there’s a good chance he may go back to Milwaukee with them — as a mascot.

A small stray dog who appears to be a bichon frise, or mix thereof, wandered on to the team’s complex Feb. 17, with an injured tail and other signs he might have been hit by a car.

After team employees took him to a veterinarian for a checkup and a bath, he was brought back to the stadium and has been there almost every day since.

They’ve named him Hank, after baseball great Hank Aaron, who began his career in Milwaukee.

hank3“Yeah, he’s making a pretty big impact, which I’ve got to say is pretty cool,” pitcher Yovani Gallardo told Newsday

Believed to be around 2 years old, Hank was assigned No. 1 for his team jersey, and team reports about him on social media have made a local celebrity.

The team has posted signs in the area reporting the found dog, but no owner has stepped forward yet, and different members of the Brewer’s organization are vying for a chance to adopt him.

Team owner Mark Attanasio said his wife wants to adopt the dog, and some players have voiced a desire to keep him on the roster and have him travel with the team. “We want to do what’s right for the team,” Attanasio said. “I think he’s really an asset.”

Meanwhile, staff members are taking turns housing Hank for the evening.

During the day he watches practice from the stands at Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix, or from the dugout, and sometimes he takes to the field.

“Most of the guys here I’m sure we all have dogs back home and not everyone can bring em out because were out were working, pitcher Gallardo told Fox 10 News in Phoenix, “but to have this little guy out here running around with us it’s fun, spring training gets long and this makes us enjoy it a little more.”

(Photos: Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)

Vigil honors dog who was beaten and burned

A candlelight vigil was held in Milwaukee Sunday in honor of Big Boy, a 2-year-old miniature pinscher that police said was beaten with a stick, doused with gasoline then set on fire, sustaining injuries so severe he had to be put down.

The dog’s owner, Clarissa Burnette, read a poem about Big Boy, who joined her family two years ago. The dog was stolen April 9 after he was let outside, according to TV station WISN.

Milwaukee police have arrested a 13-year-old boy in connection with the case.

Organizers of the vigil said the case shows the need for tougher animal cruelty laws.  “We want them to know they really need to tighten these law up,” said organizer Wendy Blish.

The Humane Society of the United States on Friday offered a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the abuse.

Ferry tales can come true — for my dog

Trying to make up for lost time, and not all that keen — no offense, Chicago — on driving through the Windy City, Ace and I strayed from John Steinbeck’s route again and got from Michigan to Wisconsin by ferry boat.

Had we driven, circumnavigating Lake Michigan, it would have been 275 miles, about about five hours and nearly a tank of gas. Instead, we rode in relative comfort on the two-and-a-half hour trip across Lake Michigan — he in the car, me in a cushy seat.

It came with a price though — $92 for the car and $85 for me. Ace rode free, as dogs do on the Lake Express.

By taking the high-speed ferry from Muskegon to Milwaukee, we bypassed Chicago, where Steinbeck boarded Charley at a kennel and spent a few days with his wife at the Ambassador Hotel.

I, having no spouse with whom to rendezvous, didn’t even consider replicating Steinbeck’s stay there. The Ambassador runs $139 to $309 a night, and allows only small pets.

The Lake Express seemed pretty dog friendly — although pets are not allowed in the ferry’s seating area, or on the deck. They are welcome in the passenger lounges in the terminals at both ends of the trip, and they are permitted to stay in the car during the crossing.

While Coast Guard regulations require all windows to be rolled up, that doesn’t seem to be too strictly enforced. In fact, a member of the ferry crew suggested I leave the window cracked, and, after meeting him through the window, was also kind enough to promise to check in on Ace from time to time.

The ferry has kennels on board, available for free on a first come, first served basis — but I figured Ace would feel safer and more comfortable in the car, as it has become his primary home over the last five months.

I, meanwhile, took a seat and worked on my laptop until the ferry got out of port. Once it did, the waters were a little rough — enough to keep me from working or reading. It was, however, just the right amount of slosh and sway to fall asleep to. So I did.

The ferry travels at about 35 miles per hour, making going on the top deck, at least on this day, a little too cold and windy to be enjoyed. It doesn’t have the romance of other ferries I’ve been on — at least I didn’t see it — and is more like a trip on Amtrak, only with no stops and side-to-side sway.

I’m told the ride can get quite hairy during bad weather; fortunately, though, we only had some “slight chop,” as the captain put it, and it got smoother once we were halfway across the lake.

Not too long after that, the crew member I’d met when boarding came and sat down across from me, asking questions about Ace and our trip. She reported that he was watching everything intently down in the cargo area, and admitted that she’d been sneaking over to pet him and give him treats.

There I’d been, snoring away for most of the trip, while Ace was working his magic a deck below — from the sounds of things flirting up a storm, all but conducting a shipboard romance. If I took a few tips from him (he has always had a way with the ladies), maybe I’d have someone to meet at the Ambassador Hotel, preferably someone who could afford it.

By the time the ferry docked in Milwaukee, we were back in the car and waiting to pull off. I was looking for the cigarette I was anxious to smoke once we cleared the boat. Ace was sticking his head out the window, desperately looking one way and then the other for his new crew member friend.

I didn’t bother telling him she was wearing a wedding ring.

Wouldn’t touch that with a 10-foot pole?

Leave it to the brother of the guy who plays “Monk” to come up with a way to keep dog poop from ever tainting the ground.

Yes, Tony Shalhoub, the Emmy-winning actor who plays TV’s “Monk,” the germ-fearing, obsessive-compulsive detective, has a brother. And that brother, Dan Shalhoub, is an inventor. And Dan is the father of the “Shapoopie” — a telescoping rod with a disposable receptacle on the end that allows one to snag poop, from a distance, before it lands.

Dan Shalhoub, who grew up in Green Bay with Tony and eight other siblings, makes his living cleaning window blinds, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. His Milwaukee-based firm, White Glove Ultra-Sonic Blind Cleaning, uses sound waves to remove the grime from blinds.

When his wife brought home a West Highland terrier, named Pippin, Dan — never a big dog fan — found cleaning up after the dog particularly distasteful, and, due to a bad back, a little painful. So he took a golf-ball retriever with a telescoping handle and rigged a plastic bag to the end, which he then carried with him and positioned directly under the dog at the appropriate time — i.e. when Pippin was poopin’.

After some design improvements, the device now features a basket that holds removable plastic liners with snap-shut lids. Shalhoub said he’s sold about 300 units ($19.95 each) on his Shapoopie website.

But business may get a boost from his brother’s recent appearance on the “Bonnie Hunt Show,” during which Tony Shalhoub demonstrated and plugged his brother’s device. You can see a video of his demonstration, using stuffed animals, here. For a more realistic demonstration, here’s one we found one Youtube.

Dog shot by police becomes a federal case

A federal court will hear the case of a woman who claims her constitional rights were violated when police in Milwaukee shot her 7-year-old mutt four times in 2004.

The case of Bubba, a Labrador/springer spaniel mix, appears to be the first such case of its type to go to a federal civil rights trial in Milwaukee, where it is set to begin before a jury this week.

Bubba’s owner, Virginia Viilo, sued the city and two police officers in in 2005, claiming her constitutional rights were violated when an officer fired shots into her already-injured dog.

Over the past decade or so, Milwaukee police have shot more than 400 dogs in the line of duty, according to court records, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported. About 25 of those, including the shooting of Bubba, were fatal.

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