Disabled Muscular Dystrophy Patient Sues Texas A&M Over Violation of Civil Rights

Lawsuit Alleges That School Improperly Detained, Banned Him for Asking About Dogs Used in Ineffective MD Experiments

For Immediate Release:
May 30, 2019

Contact:
Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

College Station, Texas – A British business owner and student of animal science and welfare who suffers from muscular dystrophy and requires the use of a wheelchair at all times has filed a lawsuit against Texas A&M University (TAMU) for violating his civil rights. Johnathon Byrne visited TAMU and peacefully requested to see the dogs there who were bred to suffer from canine muscular dystrophy. He also requested that TAMU President Michael K. Young close down the laboratory where experiments on the dogs are performed. Byrne was wrongfully detained, wrongfully banned from the university, and later subjected to an unreasonable, invasive search by TSA agents. The lawsuit alleges that TAMU violated Byrne’s First and Fourth Amendment rights (guaranteeing free speech and protection against false arrest) and demands that Young rescind the ban.

In September, Byrne—who’s deeply concerned about the suffering of animals—spoke to Young about the matter at a luncheon and hand-delivered a letter to his office asking for the closure of the laboratory where dogs bred to have canine muscular dystrophy are experimented on. The next day, Byrne visited the campus and peacefully requested to see the dogs. TAMU police detained him and banned him from the campus for two years.

“Johnathon Byrne has a constitutional right to speak about Texas A&M’s cruel muscular dystrophy experiments on dogs, without fear of unlawful detainment,” says Jeff Kerr, general counsel to PETA. “In its zeal to defend the appalling and pointless experiments on dogs in its canine muscular dystrophy laboratory, the university is apparently prepared to trample the rights of humans, including people with disabilities.”

The day after TAMU police detained Byrne, TSA personnel at the Austin airport separated him from his aide and, under the direction of an unidentified woman, repeatedly demanded that he perform physical tasks that he was unable to do because of his muscular dystrophy. After nearly an hour of physically grueling and invasive screening, two police officers from an unidentified agency insisted on escorting Byrne and his aide to their gate.

Byrne’s attorneys are Daphne Silverman of the Silverman Law Group and Thomas Connolly of Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis.

PETA has filed lawsuits against TAMU challenging the school’s use of censorship on its Facebook page and seeking records related to dog breeding there and the rumored proposed closure of the dog laboratory. Those cases are ongoing.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on”—opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please click here and visit PETA.org.

A copy of the lawsuit is available upon request.

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“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind