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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Wayne State research triggers accusations of animal cruelty


Wayne State research triggers accusations of animal cruelty




When an implanted device receded into Queenie’s body, the dog was euthanized, as are all dogs used in O’Leary’s experiments.


The experiments date back to 1991 and have received public funding from the National Institutes of Health.


In a statement sent to The Oakland Press, WSU spokesman Matt Lockwood said the university denies the group’s allegations of abuse.


“Wayne State University is committed to ensuring that all research and teaching protocols using live animals are designed and carried out in a humane manner that complies with all laws, policies and guidelines,” the statement said. A request for an interview with O’Leary was denied.


In the letter to the prosecutor’s office, the animal rights group’s director of academic affairs, Dr. John Pippin, and its associate general counsel, Mark Kennedy, allege that the university has violated the state law by “cruelly working hundreds of dogs, by forcing them to endure lengthy treadmill tests after multiple major surgeries.”
In a phone interview, Kennedy said, “We tend to file this kind of complaint when something seems really outrageous.”


The letter reads that O’Leary is “conducting inhumane experiments by causing dogs ... unrelieved pain and distress without undergoing proper scrutiny required for such experiments.


“Dogs in these protocols undergo multiple major surgeries to have medical devices implanted in their bodies, and are then forced to run exhausting treadmill tests for months before they are finally killed. Up to 25 percent of the dogs die during the surgeries or the experiments.”


A publication of the university’s Division of Research titled “New Science” said that O’Leary is “investigating what causes the reduction of blood flow to muscles and the heart during exercise in patients who suffer from heart failure.”


O’Leary is quoted in the literature: “It is well known that exercise can have extreme responses to heart failure; however, how these responses occur remains unclear.


“Our objective is to shed new light on the mechanisms responsible for these responses, which is the first step in identifying treatment regimens.”


A USDA inspection of O’Leary’s laboratory, which occurred after the administrative complaint was filed, found no violations, Lockwood said.


The USDA confirmed that the inspection came up clean.


David Sacks, a USDA spokesman in Riverdale, Md., said: “We look into every complaint that comes in.”


Wayne State “has not been cited for anything the (group) is contending,” he said.
The inspection report, dated Nov. 2, said, “No non-compliant items (were) identified during this inspection,” and provides no further detail other than the titles of the people present during the inspection.


However, the animal welfare group’s Pippin points out: “What you get in a USDA inspection report is a picture of what you see (at the lab) on the day you show up. The incontrovertible truth is in (Wayne State’s) veterinary records.”


Pippin said he believes that if the USDA’s inspector had seen dogs with the surgery or instrumentation that Queenie had, the inspector would have found the lab in violation of the Animal Welfare Act.


Queenie was one of five dogs purchased on Sept. 16, 2009 from a Class B animal dealer, R&R Research of Howard City, Mich.


The animal dealer obtained Queenie from the Gratiot County Animal Shelter through a process known as pound seizure.


All of the dogs mentioned in the animal rights group’s complaints came to Wayne State via Class B animal dealers. The National Institutes of Health released a memo earlier this year detailing a plan to move away from using dogs bought from Class B dealers in federally-funded research.


The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain Wayne State’s daily progress reports for Queenie. There are 15 noted instances in the document of the dog defecating and/or having diarrhea on the treadmill during experimentation.


In the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s guide for the inspection of research facilities, “excessive (frequent and voluminous) diarrhea and/or vomiting” is listed as an example of direct noncompliance.


“Defecation on the treadmill shows an extreme fear response and (inability) to control the bowels,” said Dr. Melvyn Richardson, a California veterinarian who consults with advocacy groups and as an expert witness.


Richardson reviewed the records on Queenie, and said “the medication they were giving her was not adequate to control her pain.”
The group’s administrative complaint to the USDA contended that dogs used in O’Leary’s experiments show signs of unrelieved pain, and thus are wrongly classified with the USDA. The protocol for O’Leary’s experiments labels them as USDA Category D, which covers “animals used in research, experiments, or tests where appropriate anesthetic, analgesic or tranquilizing agents are required to avoid pain or distress.”


The animal rights advocates said in the petition for enforcement that the Wayne State experiments should instead fall under USDA Category E, which includes animals used in research where the investigator “is unable or unwilling to administer anesthetic, analgesic or tranquilizing agents.”


According to the protocol form for research that the university must file with its Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee,  experiments in USDA Category E must “identify the condition that places the animals in Category E and provide scientific justification for withholding alleviation of pain/distress.”


“I don’t know how anyone could look at (the daily progress report) and not see that this animal was in pain,” Richardson said.


 He also said that records indicate Queenie was given Rimadyl for pain relief, which Richardson said was once used as an over-the-counter pain medication for humans. “They didn’t want to give her anything that would change her ability to run on the treadmill,” such as a narcotic, he said.


In his written analysis of the veterinary records, Richardson said, “while the amount of pain control used pre- and post-operatively appears adequate, the use of Rimadyl for the level of pain and trauma Queenie was experiencing is not.”


Richardson said the chest cavity is a sensitive area, and that the surgeries in O’Leary’s experiments open the chest, in a procedure known as a thoracotomy, to clamp arteries and veins, and tunnel under the skin, leaving “eight to nine tubes hanging out of the dog.”


O’Leary’s research protocol shows that up to five surgeries might be performed on dogs in the course of an experiment. 


“Chest tubes are very painful,” Richardson said. “To maintain one for that long — I don’t know any other word but cruel.”


One local doctor who signed the complaint sent to the USDA said she fundamentally opposes animal testing. “I think we’ve reached a point in current Western medicine where the use of animals can’t teach us anymore about human physiology,” said Dr. Jennifer Giordano, a Farmington Hills psychiatrist.


Another Oakland County doctor, Joyce Feldman, Ph.D., of Rochester Hills, is also named on the petition for enforcement sent to the USDA, but did not respond to Oakland Press calls seeking comment.


Wayne State’s statement responding to the complaints against O’Leary said the professor has “been funded continuously by the National Institutes of Health for more than 20 years, he has an international reputation as leader in cardiovascular research, and he serves on the editorial board of major scientific journals. Because his research involves animals, it is subject to surprise inspections, veterinary oversight, and intense scrutiny by the United States Department of Agriculture; his record is exemplary.”


But veterinarian Richardson disagreed.


“It seems like the only people benefiting from this are the researchers getting paid to do it,” he said.

 Follow Dustin Blitchok on Twitter @SincerelyDustin

For the Web:

Queenie vet records: http://bit.ly/vLNJT0

Research protocol: http://bit.ly/s1D7cK

WSU’s response: http://bit.ly/swAMtY

Complaint to Wayne County prosecutor’s office: http://bit.ly/rIJQKr

Complaint to USDA: http://bit.ly/tqcSKX
© Copyright 2012 The News Herald, a Journal Register Property & part of Journal Register MI -- All rights reserved 

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