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Abused, Tortured and Murdered: A dog’s life in animal research

Mike Klitzing remembers the first day Moritz left the lab. 'We had to go in and carry him out and set him down on the grass, which is probably the first time he'd ever stepped on grass before'.

MAYA TRABULSI: Today, Moritz and Theo are two healthy and happy beagles living with their adoring owners, Sarah and Mike Klitzing. But their lives haven’t always been this good. “We don’t know what was given to them, we don’t know anything about what happened before the day we met them,” said Sarah Klitzing, who took part in the beagles’ rescue in 2020, after they had spent seven years in a local research laboratory. Mike Klitzing remembers the first day Moritz left the lab. “We had to go in and carry him out and set him down on the grass, which is probably the first time he’d ever stepped on grass before,” he said.

Nationwide, nearly 60,000 beagles each year are bred and used specifically in animal research, testing and experimentation, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). “They generally like to be handled and so that’s kind of weaponized against them because they will cause the least amount of problems for the people doing the testing,” Mike Klitzing said.

Recently, however, advocates and others have shined the spotlight on the treatment of beagles in labs. Specifically, San Diego-based pharmaceutical company Crinetics has faced scrutiny for contracting with Inotiv, a contract research organization (CRO) in Indiana that is performing toxicology studies on 80 beagle puppies.

“The docile nature of beagles is what makes them the victim here,” said Kathleen Conlee, a former animal researcher, who is now vice president of Animal Research Issues with the Humane Society of the United States. The Humane Society conducted a seven month investigation at the Inotiv lab in Mount Vernon, a city in southwestern Indiana, and produced undercover video. Conlee told KPBS about a particularly wrenching part of the video involving a dog named Riley.

“The veterinarian was called to come in because of how bad of a condition he was in and wasn’t able to make it because of personal reasons so the animal suffered all night on the floor just moaning and groaning,” Conlee said. “I’ve worked on this issue for a really long time. I’ve seen a lot of disturbing videos, but just hearing that animal groaning like that — I’ve never heard anything so awful”…

The Humane Society said as many as 32 of the dogs have already been euthanized, and the organization is asking for the rest to be released for adoption at the end of the study this year. Inotiv has disputed the allegations and insists the Mount Vernon facility is operating within the law… Meanwhile, an Inotiv subsidiary in Virginia, agreed as part of a settlement to relinquish approximately 4,000 beagles after allegations of multiple welfare violations. Some of those dogs have been brought to San Diego for adoption…

Their voices are being heard in the halls of Congress. In May, a bipartisan coalition of 167 lawmakers from 32 states signed a letter to Crinetics and Inotiv, asking for the beagles to be released instead of euthanized. Also, 14 states now have laws mandating that dogs involved in laboratory research be made available for adoption, once they are no longer needed for research. In 2019, 32 beagles were rescued from Charles River Laboratory in Michigan. One of those Beagles, named Teddy, inspired an adoption bill in that state called Teddy’s Law.

While these laws help stop the killing of dogs in the name of science, the use of dogs in laboratories remains common. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a search tool on its website to find annual reports which indicate which species are used by each lab, and how many of the animals were in studies involving pain, distress, or pain-relieving drugs…

But, are animals the only option in the year 2022? A growing number of experts are saying “no,” especially when it comes to companion animals, like dogs… Dr. Aysha Akhtar, a neurologist, public health specialist and a former FDA medical officer, said the FDA does not have a regulation that requires animals to be killed for drug development “For those dogs that are still safe, are still alive, are still healthy, there is no regulation that prevents them from being adopted out,” Akhtar said. She went on to say that 90% to 95% of all drugs and vaccines that are found to be safe and effective in animals end up failing in human trials. SOURCE…


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