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Researcher accused of animal abuse

WSU backs up O’Leary, cites past compliance with regulations

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Posted: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 11:25 am, Fri Apr 5, 2013.

A group that wants to end the use of animals in medical experiments accused a Wayne State researcher Oct. 19 of performing unethical procedures on lab animals.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit, filed a petition with the Animal Care Division of the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service saying that Dr. Donal O’Leary had mistreated animals used for research in his lab. In the petition, the group cites a case involving a dalmation named Queenie, who was allegedly used in cardiology experiments that caused the animal unnecessary suffering.

A statement from WSU emphasized its accreditation by the Association of Assessment and Accreditation for Laboratory Animal Care.

“Wayne State University is committed to ensuring that all research and teaching protocols using live animals are designed and carried out in a humane manner that complies with all laws, policies and guidelines,” according to the statement.

According to the statement, O’Leary has received research funding from the National Institute of Health for more than two decades and has passed “surprise inspections, veterinary oversight, and intense scrutiny by the United States Department of Agriculture.”

“Wayne State is committed to the protection of animals, but also recognizes the benefits of research involving animals to veterinary and human health,” according to the statement. “The university strictly adheres to the policy of using only as many animals as reasonably necessary, minimizing pain and distress, and using alternatives whenever feasible.”

Dr. John Pippin, director of academic affairs for PCRM, said the group’s interest is scientifically and medically based.

“Part of our mission is to investigate ways to combine the best ethics and the best medical science in a variety of areas including medical education and training and medical research,” he said.

Pippin said the organization used public records from O’Leary’s lab to uncover the allegedly cruel experiments.

PCRM is opposed to and seeks to ban the use of animals in medical research in all forms, Pippin said, because such research is “a fraud.”

“Non-human animals are not predictive of what you will find under similar circumstances in humans,” he said. “Dogs and cats and even genetically modified mice and non-human primates are not smaller versions of humans. They’re entirely different genetic creations.”

WSU has prior experience with PCRM. In April 2007, then-interim director of TechTown and WSU Special Assistant to the President for Economic Development Randal Charlton was awarded the Henry J. Heimlich Award for Innovative Medicine by PCRM. His company, Asterand, was recognized for providing human tissue for medical research and drug testing.

In June 2007, the American Medical Association adopted a resolution to “strongly object to the positions of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine that denounce animal research.”

It voted to “condemn these ongoing activities of the PCRM that impede humane and responsible animal research.”

Pippin said the “disagreement over the validity of our position” has since ended.

PCRM has found alleged instances of animal abuse in universities across the country, including all eight Ivy League universities.

In the past, PCRM has drawn criticism because of its ties to the organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

PCRM founding president, psychiatrist Dr. Neal Barnard, was president of a board for the Foundation for the Support of Animal Protection in 2004, according to a November 2004 New York Times article.

“We’re not affiliated with PETA (and) we don’t have any overlap of leadership with PETA,” Pippin said.

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