COLUMBIA, Mo. – A rescue organization is suing researchers at the University of Missouri – Columbia, alleging they purposely blinded six beagles and then killed them after the project failed.
CBS St. Louis reports that the deaths of the dogs came to light after the Los Angeles-based Beagle Freedom Project, a non-profit that finds homes for animals who survive medical research, sued the university for attempting to charge the group an estimated $82,000 to make copies of its current research projects.
While waiting on the suit, Kevin Chase, Beagle Freedom Project’s vice president, says they looked through the universities published animal research. One particularly “disturbing” study published in the 2016 Journal of Veterinary Ophthalmology caught their attention.
“[The university researchers] killed these six beagles after purposefully damaging their corneas pouring an experimental acid into them and then killing them when they’re done because the experiment failed,” Chase says.
The researchers poured an experimental acid into the dogs’ corneas to test a treatment for corneal ulcers. However, they only had the capacity to use six out of 24 beagles.
“And so if the acid they dripped into the cornea of these dogs had proven successful … it still would have been considered, by their standards, ineffective research or invalid research because the population study was too small to be studied,” Chase says.
Chase calls it the most troubling experiment he’s come across in the four years he’s been with the organization.
“This research was flawed before even one dog was procured, blinded or killed,” he says.
The university sent a statement saying in part, “All studies were performed in accordance with the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology Statement for the Use of Animals in Ophthalmic and Vision Research and were approved by the MU Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.” The statement also says the animals were treated humanely and “every effort was made to ensure dogs were as comfortable as possible during the tests to study the effectiveness of the new drug treatment.”
Chase says the research industry primarily uses beagles for the same reason they make good family pets: “They’re docile, easy to handle, people pleasing and forgiving.”
There are 65,000 dogs in U.S. labs right now, and over 90 percent are beagles, he says, adding that there are speciality breeders who sell beagles exclusively for lab experiments.
Chase says Beagle Freedom is trying to find common ground between those who feel animal research is a tragic necessity, and those who think it’s a moral outrage.
“That common ground is finding homes for dogs and cats who make it through the experiments,” he says.
Here is the statement released by the university, in its entirety:
“Without animal research, we would not be able to answer some of the most important medical questions.
Researchers at the University of Missouri are working to develop painless or non-invasive treatments for corneal injuries to the eyes of people and dogs, including search and rescue dogs and other service animals. Common injuries to the cornea can include force trauma, chronic defects and surgical procedures, and can lead to blindness. Since dogs share similar eye characteristics with people, they are ideal candidates for corneal studies, and veterinarians have provided vital information to physicians and veterinarians treating corneal injuries – which ultimately benefit other dogs, animals and humans, including many of our U.S. veterans who have sustained corneal injuries while defending our country.
All studies were performed in accordance with the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) Statement for the Use of Animals in Ophthalmic and Vision Research (as seen here) and were approved by the MU Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. The animals were treated humanely and every effort was made to ensure dogs were as comfortable as possible during the tests to study the effectiveness of the new drug treatment.
Animal research is only done when scientists believe there is no other way to study the problem, and our researchers respect their research animals greatly and provide the utmost care.
Research in vision and ophthalmology improves the quality of life for both animals and humans.”