This PETA photo shows dogs in a lab. It may or may not be a UGA lab. Photo Credit: PETA
The animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate a UGA training program in which PETA says “dogs and other animals [are] mutilated and killed in a cruel and archaic training course.”
The UGA College of Veterinary Medicine course trains Georgia National Guard soldiers in field medicine by practicing procedures on 30 live animals, including goats, pigs and dogs. However, “dogs are the preferred animals for this laboratory because of their anatomic similarity to humans,” according to a university document.
Before the procedures, animals are acclimated at the laboratory for a minimum of seven days and given anti-anxiety medication, according a report prepared by Karen Cornell, the associate dean for academic affairs at the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine. PETA provided the report to the media.
The report was submitted to and approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, an expert panel that “is responsible for ensuring that the use of animals at the University of Georgia is performed according to the highest standards and in an ethical manner.”
Under the supervision of a veterinary surgeon, the animals are anesthetized, and students practice performing temporary tracheotomies and placing catheters and chest tubes, which involves cutting into the animals’ necks, chests and limbs.
At the end of the procedures, the animals are “humanely euthanized.” Students also practice resuscitation techniques after the animals are euthanized.
“It is critical to this course to provide these military personnel the opportunity to work on a live animal model that is similar in tissue handling characteristics and with active bleeding so that they are prepared when faced with in the field decisions with a human life in their hands,” the report says.
However, PETA called the UGA protocol “woefully inadequate” and contends that the use of live animals is unnecessary, unethical and possibly illegal.
"Cutting up and killing dogs and other animals for archaic medical training exercises is morally indefensible and educationally inferior—and it appears to violate federal animal-welfare law," PETA Director of Laboratory Investigations Justin Goodman said in a news release. "The University of Georgia can save animals' lives and better prepare students to save human lives by switching to more modern and effective human-patient simulators."
Almost all hospitals and universities that teach the same skills use simulators that mimic human anatomy and physiology, according to PETA.
When asked for comment, the university provided a response to PETA’s complaint dated Sept. 18 and signed by Vice President for Research David Lee:
To be clear, the University supports refinement, reduction and replacement, the 3Rs, and we look for opportunities to deploy the 3Rs, including through the use of simulators, whenever possible and advisable. We have reviewed this matter specifically, and we are satisfied that these instructional activities are being performed ethically, in full conformance with all applicable federal and state laws and regulations, and in compliance with the properly-approved IACUC protocal.
We appreciate your concern and want to confirm the University’s ongoing commitment to the humane and appropriate use of animals in these and all instructional exercises. This is an obligation we take very seriously. Through these important activities we are training the next generation of physicians, veterinarians, and other professionals, including military medics working on the front lines to save the lives of American soldiers.