The Maneater

Following death of six beagle puppies, advocacy group sues MU over animal testing records

Director of operations of the Beagle Freedom Project: “...We started combing through past published research from [MU], and that is how we stumbled upon this particularly gruesome experiment where they blinded and killed these nine-month-old puppies.”

Six beagle puppies were euthanized after they were used as test subjects in a study done by researchers in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, the university confirmed this week.

The study, which was published in April, aimed to verify a thought in the veterinary community that hyaluronic acid could speed up the healing process for eye injuries in dogs.

The Beagle Freedom Project, an animal rights advocacy group based in Los Angeles, filed a suit against the university in May after the university told them information they requested about MU’s use of animal test subjects would cost more than $82,000, the group’s director of operations, Kevin Chase, said.

“In other states, we were able to get all of the documents for under $100, and this seemed like a violation of state Sunshine Laws,” Chase said.

Sunshine laws require public institutions to disclose requested records and documents unless the record is specifically exempt. Often, processing fees are waived by the institution if the use of the record is determined to be in the public interest. Chase said the Beagle Freedom Project requested public records at least 27 times and was denied a waiver. The records the group is trying to obtain discuss 179 test animals used by MU researchers.

Chase said the group often requests records to inquire about animal test subjects used for research at universities as a part of their Identity Campaign. The project seeks out test subject animals who could be put up for adoption after being used for research. Commonly, Chase said, animals are euthanized after they’re used in studies.

In this case, MU was not forthcoming with its records, he said.

“Because we couldn’t get any records from the school, we started combing through past published research from [MU], and that is how we stumbled upon this particularly gruesome experiment where they blinded and killed these nine-month-old puppies,” Chase said.

In the study, six beagles bred specifically for research use, between the ages of nine months and 1 year old, were used to measure the effect of the topical use of hyaluronic acid on the rate of healing injuries of the cornea, a part of the eye.

Researchers purposefully damaged one of each dog’s corneas while they were sedated and gave one test group a treatment that contained hyaluronic acid and the other a treatment that did not. After the data was collected, the dogs were euthanized.

The authors of the study have not responded to requests for comment.

MU spokesman Christian Basi said the study’s purpose was to develop a painless, non-invasive treatment for corneal injuries and that dogs are generally good test subjects for this kind of research.

“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,” Basi said.

According to the study, the dogs were given daily socialization and were housed at the university during the trial. However, Chase said research institutions such as MU often do not find long-term homes for the animals they use as test subjects, even if they would be fit to become household pets.

“Research facilities like the University of Missouri, they’re not kennels,” Chase said. “They are research facilities, and cage space comes at a premium. If they have a dog in a cage that can’t be recycled into another experiment and they don’t need them for anything else, they just kill them.”

Edited by Kyra Haas | khaas@themaneater.com

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