DETROIT (WWJ) – Wayne State University is experimenting with dogs and that’s not sitting well with a group of doctors who plan to file a lawsuit.
“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.
The lawsuit accuses the Detroit-based school of purchasing the dogs from a facility in Virginia to be used in painful heart experiments that eventually end in death. The university has denied all the charges, calling them “baseless accusations” that the USDA has found no proof of to authenticate.
According to the lawsuit, since 2000, at least $16 million in U.S. government funds have gone to Wayne State researchers who have used dogs in experiments to try to replicate cardiovascular conditions in humans, specifically heart failure and high blood pressure.
Dr. John Pippin, director of academic affairs for the Physicians Committee, said the experiments are “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 told WWJ Newsradio 950.
Pippin said the dogs suffer multiple surgeries and forced exercise before their lives are ended at a young age.
“They have catheters and mechanical devices inserted into their body cavities and attached to their heart and blood vessels. 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,” he said.
A Michigan judge recently ruled in favor of the committee and ordered Wayne State to provide medical records and other documents relating to the dog experiments. The documents reveal that the university has been performing the highly invasive experiments on dogs 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 said.
In once case, a small hound named Rogue had her chest and abdomen cut open to implant nine devices, one of which likely rubbed a hole in her aorta causing her to bleed into her chest. The dog was then forced to exercise on a treadmill just four days after one of her surgeries. Rogue was less than 16-months-old when euthanized. The lawsuit says the dog’s short life in the laboratory failed to provide any data that would lead to treatments for human patients.
Another case involves a dog named Betty who was shipped to the university on April 12, 2012, at the age of 2. The documents show that Betty underwent two major surgeries, in May and June, that left her with nine tubes and wires coming out of her skin. Over the following two months, Wayne State employees allegedly conducted multiple experiments on Betty — involving obstructing blood flow to her kidneys, forcing her to run on a treadmill and injecting her with drugs. On August 19, 2012, Betty’s 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 says the goal of the lawsuit is to cease the experiments at Wayne State.
“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.
A statement issued by Matt Lockwood, director of communications for Wayne State University, denies the committee’s 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.”
The statement went on the say that a surprise inspection by the USDA on Nov. 13, 2013, following up on the allegations, “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 says animal research has played a major role in almost all medical advancements during the past century and the protesting group is intentionally not painting a full 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.”
At a protest held at the university Thursday afternoon, one woman, who opted not to give her name, said she feels sad for the dogs.
“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 plans to deliver a petition with more than 1,000 signatures of Michigan residents to the school’s president, M. Roy Wilson, before filing their lawsuit.