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Tag: usda

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.”

93 dogs die in Amish breeder’s gas chamber

An Amish commercial kennel owner in New York rigged a hose up to a farm engine to euthanize 93 dogs that he had been ordered to have tested and treated for brucellosis, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Depopulating” is how David Yoder, owner of Black Diamond Acres kennel in Romulus, described the process to a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector.

Yoder, according to a report on Philly Dawg, said he created an airtight chamber out of a wood whelping box (where nursing puppies are typically housed with their mothers) by fitting the opening with a metal door with a small hole for an exhaust pipe which was attached to a 3 horsepower farm engine.

He gassed “approximately” 78 adult dogs and 15 puppies in groups of five or six, then buried them, Yoder told a USDA inspector in July.

Yoder said he left the barn during the gassing because he had a headache from the carbon monoxide fumes.

“The manner of mass euthanasia caused potentially high levels of behavioral stress and unnecessary discomfort to all the dogs in the kennel,” said the USDA report, written by  inspector Andrea D’Ambrosio after a July 15 visit to the kennel.

It is against federal law for a licensed kennel owner to perform their own euthanasia.

Mary Anne Kowalski, a board member of the Seneca County SPCA, told Philly Dawg she was not aware of anyone from the USDA reporting the case to local authorities. The dogs were killed sometime after a June 29 inspection where Yoder had been ordered to get his dogs tested and treated for Brucellosis and before the inspector returned on July 15.

Kowalski discovered the report of the gassing on the USDA website, and reported the incident to the sheriff and district attorney in the hope that cruelty charges will be brought against Yoder.

“I hope these dogs did not die in vain,” she said.

Romulus, located 60 miles southeast of Rochester, passed an ordinance last year outlawing commercial kennels, or puppy mills, but Yoder was allowed to continue operating because his kennel was grandfathered under the new ordinance.

Yoder breeds poodles, Bichons, Maltese and Boston Terriers.

Probe finds lax enforcement of puppy mills

Lax government enforcement of puppy mills has led to countless dogs dying and living in horrific conditions, according to an internal government report.

Investigators say the Department of Agriculture often ignores repeat violations, waives penalties and doesn’t adequately document inhumane treatment of dogs, the Associated Press reported.

In one case cited by the department’s inspector general, 27 dogs died at an Oklahoma breeding facility–  after inspectors had visited the facility repeatedly and cited it for violations.

The review, conducted between 2006 and 2008, found that more than half of those breeders who had already been cited for violations flouted the law again.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Tuesday that USDA will take immediate action. “USDA will reinforce its efforts under its animal welfare responsibilities, including tougher penalties for repeat offenders and greater consistent action to strongly enforce the law,” he said.

Federal investigators uncovered grisly conditions at puppy mills around the country where dogs were infested with ticks, living with gaping wounds and in pools of feces, according to the report.

The report recommends that the animal care unit at the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service immediately confiscate animals that are dying or seriously suffering, and better train its inspectors to document, report and penalize wrongdoing.

The investigators visited 68 dog breeders and dog brokers in eight states that had been cited for at least one violation in the previous three years. They found that first-time violators and even repeat offenders were rarely penalized.

“The agency believed that compliance achieved through education and cooperation would result in long-term dealer compliance and, accordingly, it chose to take little or no enforcement action against most violators,” the report said.

In the case of the Oklahoma breeding facility, the breeder had been cited for 29 violations, including nine repeated violations, from February 2006 to January 2007. The inspector returned in November 2007 before any enforcement action had taken place, according to the report, and found five dead dogs and “other starving dogs that had resorted to cannibalism.”

Despite these conditions, the inspectors did not immediately confiscate the surviving dogs and, the report says, 22 additional dogs died before the breeder’s license was revoked.

Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, said the report confirms what animal rights groups have been pointing out for for years.

“Enforcement is flaccid, the laws are weak and reform needs to happen,” he said. “We have long criticized having the animal welfare enforcement functions within a bureaucracy dedicated to promoting American agriculture. There’s a built-in conflict of interest.”

Canine melanoma vaccine gets approval

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has granted Merial Limited full licensure for a therapeutic DNA vaccine designed to aid in extending survival of dogs with oral melanoma, the company reports in a press release.

Merial, a licensee of Vical Incorporated, plans to launch the product, called Oncept, at the North American Veterinary Conference in Orlando Jan. 16 – 20.

Melanoma is a common type of cancer in dogs and is the most common malignant tumor of the dog’s mouth. It can also occur in the nail and footpad.

The vaccine contains a gene encoding human tyrosinase, an enzyme associated with skin pigmentation. The tyrosinase produced from the human DNA is similar to canine tyrosinase and has been shown to stimulate an immune response against canine melanoma cells producing tyrosinase. The use of DNA from a noncanine species causes production of tyrosinase that is considered foreign by the canine immune system, stimulating an immune response, acording to the vaccine’s makers. It is similar enough to canine tyrosinase that the dog’s immune response will target canine melanoma cells.

Normal treatment for canine oral melanoma includes surgery and radiation, but even after successful local treatment, the melanoma frequently spreads throughout the body, including the lymph nodes, liver, lungs and kidneys, and is often resistant to chemotherapy.

“The approval of Oncept is a milestone in the cancer vaccine field and a significant advancement for our DNA delivery technology platform,” said Vijay B. Samant, Vical’s President and Chief Executive Officer.

USDA releases confidential Vick documents

The United States Department of Agriculture, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, released hundreds of pages of new evidence last week from its investigation of NFL quarterback Michael Vick to Atlanta’s WSBTV.

The documents  include summaries of interrogations by federal investigators with member of Vick’s dogfighting ring and confidential informants in the case.

Among the  revelations:

• A confidential informant told investigators that Vick drowned dogs, shot them to death and killed others “with a shovel.”

• A Delta Airlines employee from Virginia was fired “when he attempted to get Vick around security” during the peak of the dog fighting operation. Vick “felt responsible” and went on to hire the employee.

• In 2003, Vick and two other men attended a dog fight in Blackstone, Va., bringing with them two pit bulls. Both lost so the dogs were left with the owner of the property. Vick did not keep dogs that lost matches.

• In April 2007, Vick tested several dogs to determine if they had the predisposition to fight. He ordered six or eight dogs destroyed because they did not meet his standards. The witness said Vick personally helped drown three or four dogs, a process that took two people to hold the animal’s legs while the dog’s head was held under water. Vick also hung dogs.

• The witness told investigators Vick “seemed to get an ‘adrenaline high’ when killing the dogs.”

Vick served nearly two years in federal prison after pleading guilty to a federal animal fighting charge. He was released in 2009 and joined the Philadelphia Eagles.

WSBTV.COM submitted the request for the records in March 2008. The information was delivered by the USDA last week.

Dog flu vaccine approved for marketing

A flu vaccine for dogs has received a conditional license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health said this week its canine influenza vaccine is the first approved to protect dogs from the contagious respiratory illness known as the H3N8 flu virus, which was first recognized in 2004 after an outbreak among Florida greyhounds.

Since then, it has continued to spread and has now been detected in dogs in 30 states and the District of Columbia, according to a company press release.

The disease does not affect people, but can be passed among dogs or from a human carrier to a dog .

Dogs have no natural immunity to the virus, which is related to an equine flu strain. The most common symptoms are a cough, high fever and nasal discharge. Most cases are mild, but a severe illness can lead to pneumonia and become fatal.

Class B animal dealers deemed “unnecessary”

A National Academies report released Friday concludes that researchers have no need to deal with “random source” dealers of laboratory dogs.

Random source, or class B dealers are those that procure and sell dogs and cats from the general animal population to laboratories,  rounding up dogs and cats from animal shelters, auctions, private individuals and other “random sources.” Class A dealers are those that sell animals bred for a life in the laboratory.

The report comes in response to a request by Congress through the National Institutes of Health for an evaluation of the need to use random source dogs and cats in NIH-funded research.

The report states that “despite new enforcement guidelines and intensified inspection efforts, not all origins of (Class B) animals are or can be traced. The USDA simply cannot assure that stolen or lost pets will not enter research laboratories via the Class B dealer system.”  The U.S. Department of Agriculture licenses Class B dealers.

The findings in the report — mostly praised by both the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS)  — could provide momentum in Congress to eliminate Class B dealers, whose numbers have been rapidly shrinking.

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