Texas A&M University Dishonest About Muscular Dystrophy Dog Laboratory

“It is hardly to be expected that a man who does not hesitate to vivisect … will hesitate to lie about it afterwards.”

—George Bernard Shaw

UPDATE: It seems that Texas A&M (TAMU) isn’t capable of telling the truth about its muscular dystrophy (MD) dog lab. In the latest misleading statement posted on its website, the university still refuses to admit that it’s breeding dogs to develop MD—despite the irrefutable evidence to the contrary below—and makes the outrageous claim that these painful experiments are being done to benefit the dogs as well as humans. The statement goes on to say that these imprisoned animals are helping to “unravel the mysteries and potential cures” for MD, even though 35 years of experiments have failed to produce a treatment to reverse the symptoms of MD, let alone a cure.

Perhaps TAMU used an “alternative facts” dictionary when it looked up the definitions of “benefit” and “unravel.”

That must also be where it found its definition of “rigorous oversight.” TAMU claims that the funders of these experiments have provided oversight in the care of these dogs. Here’s the reality: The National Institutes of Health does not inspect animal laboratories, and the Department of Defense has no oversight authority for this laboratory and has likely never even stepped foot in it.

TAMU’s statement also says that “rigorous oversight” is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC). Wrong again. Those two entities deal primarily with basic husbandry issues such as cage size and room temperature, and site visits are infrequent. The USDA inspects facilities only once a year, while AAALAC’s visits are preannounced and occur once every three years. Government documents show that AAALAC-accredited laboratories had more violations of animal-protection laws than unaccredited facilities did.

Proof TAMU Breeds Dogs With MD

In its statements regarding the use of golden retrievers and other dogs in its muscular dystrophy (MD) laboratory, Texas A&M University (TAMU) states that the dogs “are already affected by this disease” and are “not artificially made to be ‘sick.’” This is demonstrably false. PETA has obtained research papers, presentations, animal disposition records, observation forms, and other documents that offer indisputable proof that the university is not charitably caring for dogs who happen to be afflicted with MD but is deliberately breeding dogs to be sick—all to pursue research methods that have, as the principal experimenter Joe Kornegay acknowledges, failed to yield a cure for the human disease or even to develop a treatment to reverse the disease symptoms and, which experts concur, offer no hope of a cure.

In a 2014 presentation, Kornegay documented the history in the U.S. of purposely breeding golden retrievers with the express intention of “developing” colonies of dogs who suffer from golden retriever muscular dystrophy (GRMD). As he transferred from the University of Georgia to North Carolina State University to the University of Missouri to the University of North Carolina (UNC)–Chapel Hill to TAMU, colonies of dogs, who were afflicted with the disease or carriers of the gene, moved with him.

In a 2011 book, Muscle Gene Therapy, Kornegay and his colleagues contributed a chapter, “Golden Retriever Muscular Dystrophy (GRMD): Developing and Maintaining a Colony and Physiological Functional Measurements,” in which the authors discuss their “25 years of experience” with “establishing and maintaining [a] GRMD colony.” The authors detail methods of obtaining semen from MD-affected male dogs and artificial insemination of females, and they present tables summarizing pup mortality and inbreeding rates. They comment on the dogs’ high mortality rate and state that “to produce 15 affected dogs each year, one must maintain ten carriers.”

Kornegay is the director of the National Center for Canine Models of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (NCDMD), which states that its “overarching goal” is “to develop and sustain dog models of DMD and to … meet the increasing demand to utilize golden retriever muscular dystrophy (GRMD) and other canine models of DMD.” The NCDMD trumpets the cost advantages of maintaining federally supported breeding colonies to produce dogs with MD and DMD.

In 2013, in response to a public-records request, PETA received thousands of pages of records from TAMU documenting the abjectly miserable, pain-filled lives of dogs who were born in a laboratory at UNC–Chapel Hill and then shipped to TAMU to be caged for life. The documents include disposition records, observation records, records that identify the dam and sire for each transferred dog, and the genotype of the dog as related to muscular dystrophy (i.e., whether the dog was “affected,” simply a “carrier,” or “normal”).

TAMU has been misrepresenting its experiments on dogs, suggesting that it has been helping those who “are already affected by this disease” without admitting that it has been deliberately breeding dogs to be sick. Let the university know that you haven’t been duped by its false representations and urge it to close its dog laboratories, stop breeding dogs to have MD, and release all dogs for adoption into good homes.

What You Can Do

Please urge TAMU to close its dog laboratories, to stop breeding animals afflicted with muscular dystrophy, to release all dogs for adoption into good homes, and to redirect resources toward humane and effective research methods.

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