Friday, January 7, 2011

University of Texas accused of mutilating animals.

Disturbing if true. From here.

GALVESTON — Dogs, monkeys, sheep and mice were neglected and denied veterinary care and pain relief after being burned, cut open and mutilated in medical experiments at the University of Texas Medical Branch, an unnamed whistle-blower alleges, according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Based on the whistle-blower’s statements, Norfolk, Va.-based PETA filed a complaint alleging violations of the Animal Welfare Act with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is charged with enforcing that law.

Medical branch officials declined Wednesday to address specific allegations, but issued this statement:

“As a leading research institution committed to advancing the treatment and prevention of illness and injury, UTMB strives to adhere to the highest ethical standards and to follow all federal, state and campus regulations in every aspect of its research enterprise,” according to the statement.

“Our animal facilities are regularly inspected and approved by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the institution’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.”

Citing fear of retaliation, PETA officials declined to divulge the identity of the whistle-blower, who presumably is or was a medical branch employee.

Among other things, the group said a researcher subjected sheep, pigs and mice to third-degree burns on up to 40 percent of their bodies using a Bunsen burner or a scorching-hot metal rod and forced animals to inhale smoke.

Several sheep and a pig in one laboratory suffered “serious injuries — including a broken leg and an unknown trauma that caused a sheep’s intestines to penetrate her chest cavity and required euthanasia — because husbandry staff forced the animals to jump over gates instead of using ramps to remove them from enclosures,” according to the complaint the animal rights organization filed with federal regulators.

The whistle-blower also contends that medical branch faculty members cut open dogs and surgically implanted tubes into their colons for research on irritable bowel syndrome. The whistle-blower asserts that the researchers did not provide anesthesia to the animals, PETA said.

One dog died during surgery; another suffered in pain following surgery when staff didn’t provide painkillers, PETA said, citing the whistle-blower.

Federal animal welfare regulations require that research facilities establish and maintain programs for adequate veterinary care.

“Being burned and cut open in experiments is upsetting enough, but if animals are also being denied basic care and pain relief, UTMB must answer to the law,” Kathy Guillermo, PETA vice president, said.

The organization is calling for the Department of Agriculture to investigate and hold the medical branch accountable if allegations of animal abuse are borne out, Guillermo said.

Medical branch researchers long have experimented with animals. Of them, 97 percent are rodents, primarily rats, 3 percent are sheep, rabbits, guinea pigs and dogs, medical branch officials told The Daily News in 2005.

In 2009, the medical branch faced criticism by The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine for using dogs in trauma training courses. The group, which claims 7,000 medical doctor members, has for years tried to persuade the medical branch and other university medical schools and programs to replace live animals with lifelike human models.

In an interview about the trauma training courses, medical branch spokesman Raul Reyes said the island campus attempted to use as few animals as possible: “All surgery is performed under general anesthesia administered by a certified veterinary anesthesiologist, so they feel no pain.”

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