A group of physicians is filing a lawsuit against Detroit’s Wayne State University for using dogs in heart experiments that have no scientific or medical value, and only cause the dogs pain and early deaths.
“Wayne State is being sued by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a national organization that claims the university illegally imported and abused 21 dogs for medical experiments,” said WWJ Legal Analyst Charlie Langton.
They accuse the school of purchasing the dogs from a Virginia facility with the intention of performing painful experiments on their hearts that only lead to death. The university says these are “baseless accusations,” and the USDA has yet to verify the charges.
But the lawsuit states that since 2000, over $16 million in government (i.e. taxpayer) funds have been behind this research in an effort to replicate cardiovascular conditions humans experience, particularly with high blood pressure and heart failure.
Dr. John Pippin, director of academic affairs for the Physicians Committee, calls the experiments “abuse at several levels.”
“We have been looking into this and concluded that this research is not just cruel, and actually it’s lethal to every dog who is studied, but that it’s unnecessary, wasteful and does not contribute to the advancement of human health,” Pippin said.
The dogs undergo numerous major surgeries and are forced to exercise just days later, causing so much stress to their bodies that they either die or are euthanized soon after.
“They have catheters and mechanical devices inserted into their body cavities and attached to their heart and blood vessels,” Pippin explained. “They have the blood flow to their kidneys obstructed to create hypertension. And with all of this hardware in them, if they survive the surgeries, they are forced to run on a treadmill, some data are obtained from these devices inside them and when the researchers are through with them, then they kill the dogs because obviously with all this instrumentation and trauma they’ve undergone, they’re not going to survive long anyway.”
Recently a Michigan judge ruled in favor of the committee, and ordered the university to provide medical records and other documentation for the experiments. The documents showed that this research had been taking place from March 2012 through April 2013.
“As many as one-quarter of these dogs, if you can believe this, died during the surgery or after the surgery before any research is done. So, this is a very ham-handed thing that the researchers are doing. They can’t even get the dog through the surgery a lot of times,” Pippin noted.
One dog, named Rogue, had her chest and abdomen opened to implant nine devices, one of which may have rubbed a hole into her aorta, causing her to internally hemorrhage. She was euthanized at 16 months old.
Two-year-old Betty was brought to Wayne in April 2012 and had two major surgeries that left nine tubes and wires protruding from her skin. For the next two months, blood flow to her kidneys was obstructed, she was injected with drugs and she forced to run on a treadmill. Four months after arriving, her health record simply read “Dog euthanized.”
“These researchers, although they’ve published papers, they haven’t advanced human medicine. There is nothing that my mother or your cousin has benefited from because all these dogs over the years have been tortured and killed. It makes me feel as a physician that it’s a horrible waste of time and hope and resources. It makes me feel as a compassionate human being that it’s an egregious ethical violation,” Pippin said.
The committee hopes to have these experiments ended, and to allow the surviving dogs to be adopted.
“We are filing a complaint with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to seize these dogs who have been illegally imported into the state, at least the ones that are still alive, and after an appropriate observation period to offer them for adoption for the public,” Pippin said.
Matt Lockwood, director of communications for Wayne, denies the charges.
“Wayne State is committed to the protection of animals, but also recognizes the benefits of research involving animals,” the statement read. “Certain types of exercise trigger a type of feedback loop in people with high blood pressure or modest heart failure. How this feedback loop is triggered and why it escalates to a heart attack under certain conditions, like shoveling snow, is not well understood. Research at Wayne State is making progress uncovering the factors that contribute to this deadly cycle.”
He noted that the USDA’s surprise inspection on November 13, 2013 “found no problems whatsoever.”
“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 university strictly adheres to the policy of using only as many animals as reasonably necessary, minimizing pain and distress, and using alternatives whenever feasible,” the statement read.
Lockwood asserts that animal research has been prominent in nearly every medical advance of the past century, and the committee is purposely not showing the entire picture.
“[It’s] irresponsible,” Lockwood told WWJ Newsradio 950. “They certainly have a right to disagree, but when you take information and you purposely take it out of context and mislead people, that’s not right.”
A protest was held by champions for animals on campus Thursday.
“It’s heartbreaking to me as somebody who’s an animal lover, especially a dog lover, it’s heartbreaking to know that they put them in these cages and they get no love, no affection, no attention,” she said, “and they’re basically used as they do hamsters.”
The committee will be delivering a petition with over 1,000 signatures to university president M. Roy Wilson before the lawsuit is officially filed.
To contact the National Institute of Health, please click here.
To contact Wayne University, click here.