An animal activist group's protests include a billboard along Interstate 75 at E. Grand Boulevard, near the Wayne State campus. (Lauren Abdel-Razzaq / The Detroit News)
Detroit— An animal activist group plans to speak today at a Wayne State University Board of Governors meeting to condemn what members say is improper animal experimentation on dogs.
“Wayne State’s Board of Governors should immediately halt the dead-end dog experiments,” says Dr. Kenneth Litwak, the associate director of laboratory medicine for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. “Taxpayers are paying millions of dollars for dog experiments that do not advance human health. And the dogs suffer multiple surgeries and months of painful experiments and forced exercise.”
Litwak plans to address the board, which is at 3:15 p.m. at the Margherio Family Conference Center in the Mazurek Education Commons at the medical school’s Scott Hall, 540 East Canfield.
University spokesman Matt Lockwood said Litwak will have five minutes to speak at the meeting during public comment, like any other speakers.
Lockwood said the university only uses animals for testing “when reasonably necessary” and denies any wrongdoing.
“Our research is funded by the National Institutes of Health because the NIH views our work as important for solving major health issues,” said Lockwood. “This is peer-reviewed research. Grants like this are not easy to get. That shows that they view this as important work.”
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine posted a billboard along Interstate 75 near E. Grand Boulevard calling out the university’s heart failure and hypertension research program, which uses animals for testing.
In November, the activist group filed a complaint with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development alleging the university transported the dogs across state lines without proper documentation. The complaint also says WSU researchers conducted “highly invasive heart failure and hypertension experiments” from March 2012 through April 2013.
According to Brad Deacon, a spokesman for the agriculture department, the issue with the paperwork has been resolved.
“Our investigation concluded that Wayne State had not done anything wrong and the issue was with paperwork filing from another state,” he said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture also makes surprise visits to the research labs and has yet to determine a violation, according to a report from the agency.
The Physicians Committee periodically holds protests on campus.
Motorists driving south on I-75 near Wayne State University’s campus will be confronted with the group’s billboard, which reads, “Doctors urge Wayne State: Stop dead-end dog experiments now!” The dog depicted in the billboard is a hound mix similar to Rogue, one of the test dogs that has become the poster dog for the group.
Records obtained by the committee through a Freedom of Information Act request show Rogue arrived at Wayne State on May 30, 2012, when she underwent two major surgeries in which nine implanted devices were left in her chest. She was then run on a treadmill four days after surgery.
According to the records, Rogue was euthanized after it was discovered she had a hole in her aorta, which the Physicians Committee says was probably caused by one of the implants rubbing against her heart.
One of the researchers conducting the experiments has received $8 million over the past two decades from the National Institutes of Health, according to university news releases. The university has defended the research, saying it makes major contributions to the medical field.