Sunday, January 04, 2004

Academic Veterinarians Maim Then Kill Dogs For Science

Tufts Students Ask School To Stop Killing Dogs

This is pretty shocking.

Tufts Veterinary School's ethics committee sanctioned an experiment that involved fracturing both hind legs of six dogs, and applying a standard external fixation device to half of the legs, and a "newly developed flexible bone brace" to the other half. The dogs were then to be euthanized and the bones examined for healing.

Students, one would hope most of them, were outraged. Some protested. Their protests have not been heeded. The experiments were done, and the dogs are being euthanized in order to dissect these legs and check for healing. Leaving aside for a moment the brutal premise of the experiment -- breaking animals' legs -- is there a reason why standard measures of healing -- xrays, bone scans, CT scans etc. and clinical function can't be the measured end points ? The school claims histopathology is the "gold standard" end point.

But what is the ethical "gold standard" in veterinary research ?

One wonders why a clinical experiment could not have been devised: with informed consent from owners, randomize 100 sequential dogs with already-broken legs to receive either the standard treatment or the new brace, and monitor clinical outcomes by xrays, bones scans, CT scans, functional assessments.

One also wonders about who is funding the experiment. None of the reports I've found addresses this. In fact the first I learned about this was from a one paragraph regional news brief buried deep in the Boston Globe today. Several articles I found via Google News state "a new product" is being researched. One must ask: do the researchers stand to profit ? Have they taken out patents ? Is there an anticipated human application with even bigger potential profits on the horizon ? Are veterinary schools in the business conducting of animal experiments with anticipated human applications ? Who is funding the study ?

I'm disappointed that the Boston Globe has had virtually no coverage of this story.

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