The disturbing footage, released Thursday by PETA, appears to be the first glimpse inside the university's Golden Retriever colony, where researcher Joseph Kornegay has been investigating treatment method for a an aggressive strain of muscular dystrophy for over 30 years.
(The footage was obtained within the last three years, but only just made available, according to PETA).
In letters to A&M President Michael Young and officials at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, PETA called for an end to experimentation on dogs.
The video shows staggering or crippled dogs having trouble eating, and living in slat-floor cages furnished only with buckets of water, rapidly pacing and chewing on the cage bars out of frustration. According to PETA, some dogs live for years in the cages.
Alka Chandna, PETA's laboratory oversight specialist, stated, "Three decades of painful experiments on generations of debilitated and suffering golden retrievers have failed to result in a cure or even a treatment that can reverse the course of muscular dystrophy in humans."
Citing medical journals, the letters to A&M and the National Institute describe some of the research, stating that Kornegay and his colleagues:
"repeatedly stretch the muscles of the dogs with levers to induce mechanical damage...By six weeks of age, the hind legs are shifted forward and some are unable to open their mouths or jaws. Eventually, muscles undergo hypertrophy and the dogs may develop aspiration pneumonia and cardiac failure."
As we wrote in 2015, one experiment involved levers attached to a tiny motor called a servomotor, which was used to repeatedly stretch muscles "to induce mechanical damage." The dogs underwent three sets of ten stretches with a five-second rest between stretches and a four-minute rest between sets.
The most common form of muscular dystrophy, Duchenne is caused by a protein deficiency affecting muscle strength, according to the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Its toll is brutal:
"Onset is between 3 and 5 years and the disorder progresses rapidly. Most boys are unable to walk by age 12, and later need a respirator to breathe. Girls in these families have a 50 percent chance of inheriting and passing the defective gene to their children."
But, PETA claims in its letters, these suffering children "are receiving no benefits from canine research." Kornegay's own research shows that muscular dystrophy "in dogs is not analogous to MD in humans," according to the organization.
Chandna, said in the press release that :
"Cutting-edge techniques, such as utilizing unneeded cells from DMD patients to develop disease-specific cures, developing ways to grow healthy human muscle cells that could be transplanted into patients with MD, and creating human-relevant drug-screening platforms, have led to the development of more promising therapies."
Texas A&M, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and the University of Missouri-Columbia are the only three institutions where dog-related Duchenne research is conducted, according to PETA.
From PETA's website:
Nazi-like torture on dogs at Texas A&M University
At Texas A&M University, experimenters led by Joe Kornegay breed dogs to develop different types of muscular dystrophy (MD), including Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), which is particularly severe. These diseases ravage their bodies, causing progressive muscle wasting and weakness. Studies with these dogs haven’t led to a cure or even a treatment to reverse disease symptoms.
Video footage shows that Kornegay’s appallingly thin dogs were caged, sometimes alone, in barren metal cells and struggled to swallow thin gruel—the only food that they could eat, given how easily they could choke. Long ropes of saliva hung from the mouths of dogs whose jaw muscles had weakened. Even balancing was difficult. Dogs with this condition are also at great risk for pneumonia because they can easily inhale liquid into their lungs.
Dogs who didn’t have the disease but carried the DMD gene were used for breeding. Deprived of loving homes, they frantically paced the slatted floors and bit the bars of small cages in frustration. They didn’t even have the comfort of a blanket.
To gauge just how much a dog’s muscles have deteriorated, Kornegay has invented a crude technique that could pass for medieval torture: He repeatedly stretches them with a motorized lever in order to cause muscle tears.
Kornegay has been at this for more than 30 years. Puppies in his laboratory who are born with DMD are so weak at birth that they require extra nutrition. By 6 weeks of age, their hind limbs have shifted forward, making walking difficult, and some are unable to open their mouths or jaws.
(Houston Press - December 9, 2016)