Animal rights activists said Wednesday they will be urging prospective Texas A&M students not to attend the university because of the school’s controversial experiments on dogs.
According to a news release from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, protesters will be outside the university’s prospective student center in Arlington from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday night.
Since 2016, PETA has been protesting ongoing studies of dogs with muscular dystrophy at the university’s vet program. Muscular dystrophy is a group of diseases that cause progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass in both humans and some animals.
“Four decades of dogs’ suffering haven’t led to a single cure or treatment that reverses muscular dystrophy symptoms in human patients,” PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said in the news release. “PETA is urging prospective students to stay away from TAMU and its cruel dog laboratory.”
The university issued the following statement in response to the protest:
“It’s unfortunate that this group is interfering tonight with such an important event for families and students.
“While they are hoping to elicit an emotional response based on misinformation and a video taken out of context, we absolutely encourage prospective students to get in touch with university officials and ask any questions they may have about the animal research here.
“These dogs play an important role in trying to help boys and dogs suffering from Duchene muscular dystrophy. A&M research has contributed to preclinical data that led to the FDA approval of recent experimental therapy in human patients.”
The dispute between PETA and the university over the dog studies goes back to 2013, when PETA received hidden footage from inside the lab. In 2016, they released the video, which showed dogs in the lab inside cages, drooling and wagging their tails.
In response, Texas A&M released a news release then disputing those claims, saying the dogs were treated well and the research was intended to help humans with muscular dystrophy disease.
“Our work is shared not only nationally but globally with the goal of finding a cure for this dreadful disease, DMD, in both children and dogs worldwide,” the 2016 release said.
In October 2017, a petition started by two students at the school garnered hundreds of thousands of signatures. The petition on Change.org claimed the lab, led by Joe Kornegay, was breeding golden retrievers to develop muscular dystrophy.
Kornegay’s experiments, the petition claimed, had been going on for more than 30 years at various universities.
“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,” the petition stated.
As of Wednesday morning, more than a year after the petition’s creation, it appeared to still have people signing and had reached half a million signatures.
“These diseases ravage their bodies, causing progressive muscle wasting and weakness,” the petition said. “Studies with these dogs haven’t led to a cure or even a treatment to reverse disease symptoms, even after experimenting for 30 years.”
According to a university news release from February, the dogs already have muscular dystrophy and are “treated with great care and tenderness as they help unravel the mysteries and potential cures for this dreadful disease.”
In its February 2018 release, Texas A&M stated that the work is regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International.
“It saddens us that without full knowledge — of what we are doing, how the dogs are treated, and how close we are to an effective treatment — groups have taken a rigid position and are using slander that adversely affects the opinion of those who don’t know all of the facts,” the release said.