In Groundbreaking Ruling, PETA’s Free-Speech Lawsuit Against Texas A&M University Is Upheld

Court Sides With Group After School Refused to Run Ad of Dog Suffering in Its Laboratory

For Immediate Release:
March 16, 2021

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

College Station, Texas

In a first-of-its kind ruling within the Fifth Circuit, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas has denied Texas A&M University’s attempt to dismiss a lawsuit that PETA filed against it. The litigation challenges Texas A&M Vice President of Brand Development Shane Hinckley’s refusal to allow PETA to place an ad on the school’s buses showing a dog used in Texas A&M’s canine muscular dystrophy (MD) experiments.

Hinckley claimed that the ad violated Texas A&M’s advertising standards prohibiting ads that contain “political campaigns and viewpoints or endorsements”—but today’s decision allows the case to move forward so that PETA can prove that this ban on “political” speech is unreasonable.

PETA is asking the court to declare that the school’s policy prohibiting “political” advertisements is vague and discriminates against the group’s viewpoint in violation of the First Amendment. In today’s decision, the court ruled that these claims may proceed to discovery so that PETA can collect evidence from Texas A&M.

PETA had previously filed two First Amendment lawsuits challenging Texas A&M’s deletion of comments about the dog laboratory on its official Facebook page and other social media sites. The group settled the first lawsuit to its satisfaction, and the second is pending.

“Texas A&M doesn’t mind hurting dogs, but it sure hates it when the public finds out,” says PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo. “The university is violating the law to avoid public scrutiny when it could just shut down its gruesome laboratory and release all the dogs there into loving homes.”

The dog on PETA’s ad is Peony, one of those at Texas A&M who struggled to walk, swallow, and even breathe. She repeatedly suffered from parasites, was subjected to painful surgeries, and was regularly soaked in the drool caused by her enlarged tongue. She was euthanized at 22 months old.

Under pressure from PETA supporters, 500 physicians, and humans with MD, Texas A&M stopped breeding dogs to develop the disease. The lead experimenter has retired, and many of the nearly 100 dogs have been adopted into homes—but the laboratory still keeps 25 dogs imprisoned there.

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