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University of Missouri researchers blinded beagles before euthanization

The university explains why the tests were done
Posted at 5:21 PM, Aug 30, 2016

The University of Missouri acknowledges its researchers took part in a medical study that included wounding six beagle puppies before they were all euthanized.

The study was published in the medical journal Veterinary Ophthalmology on April 7.

It says six healthy, female beagle puppies (9-12 months) were wounded in their left corneas; three were then given an experimental drug (Optimend, containing 0.2% hyaluronic acid) and the other three received the control product without the acid.

The result of the study concluded the topical drug “did not accelerate corneal wound healing.” ‘Optimend Corneal Repair Drops’ is a product currently on the market for use only by veterinarians.

The Beagle Freedom Project learned of the tests several months ago.

"We identified 179 dogs and cats at Mizzou used by the med school, for research purposes,” said Daniel Kolde, attorney for  Beagle Freedom Project.

Beagle Freedom Project’s mission is to adopt beagles from universities and institutions after they have been through medical testing. They requested public records from the animals under testing at Mizzou last year under the Sunshine Law but were met with a large bill.

“They wouldn't give us any records until we gave them $82,222 and some change,” said Kolde.

Beagle Freedom Project then sued the university.

“Daily care logs, research protocol, and euthanasia records ... all just basic, standard stuff that the university should be keeping in an orderly fashion for the government inspectors ... So we think they were just running up the bill to discourage us. That's why we filed the sunshine law."

The University of Missouri sent 41 Action News this statement regarding the tests:

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.

When asked if the dogs were euthanized following the study, the university did not respond. However, an email obtained from Mizzou’s Mary Jo Banken to Beagle Freedom Project  says the animals were put down.

The email partially reads, “The dogs were humanely euthanized, corneas were removed and samples were stored for further research.”

When asked if the dog’s eyes were damaged, Banken also responded, “Yes. To test the effectiveness of the new drug treatment, dogs underwent sedation and their corneas were wounded by a board certified veterinary ophthalmologist under the guidelines of ARVO. However following their wounds they were given medical treatment to heal their eyes.”

Beagle Freedom Project and PETA don’t understand why the dogs couldn’t be adopted.

"The universities and institutions don't want these animals out, then because every day these people look at their family member with one eye taken out and they start thinking about the testing,” said Kolde.

Kathy Guillermo, senior vice president of PETA, said, "We are embroiled in a number of law suits with a number of universities on open records issues now. We have to remember, these universities are publicly funded, the documents they have should be open for review by the public and yet they fight tooth and nail to keep us from getting those because they know how bad they look when people see what they do to animals."

"The Animal Welfare Act is really the only federal law offering any sort of protection for animals in laboratories, and its protections are very minimal. You can basically do anything to an animal you want if you get your over-sight committee to approve it. There's nothing that is illegal,” she said.

Beagle Freedom Project says they’ve sponsored five bills that make it mandatory for medically studied beagles to be adopted.

Those states are: California, Nevada, Minnesota, Connecticut and New York. There are currently no proposed bills for such measures in Kansas or Missouri.

Why beagles?

"It's about 60,000 every single year and beagles, because they're docile and friendly and seek affection, unfortunately they become the dog of choice for these hideous experiments,” said Guillermo.

Kolde says their lawsuit against Mizzou could go to trial, but it would likely be another 9-12 months. The attorney says there is a similar lawsuit currently filed against the University of Illinois.

41 Action News reached out to local universities to see if any of their research involved animal testing. University of Missouri-Kansas City said they currently test on mice and rats; rabbits used to be on their list. The University of Kansas Medical Center said that more than 99 percent of the animals on their campus are rats and mice. They said there are also a handful of other animals, including gerbils, pigs, rabbits and a couple varieties of monkey.

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Josh Helmuth can be reached at josh.helmuth@kshb.com

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