Dog sacrificed for sales demonstration
In an unprecedented exercise, a neurosurgeon at Cleveland Clinic violated the Clinic's animal use code, but perhaps not federal law
The United States Department of Agriculture and Cleveland Clinic are investigating an incident in which a neurosurgeon induced an aneurysm in an anaesthetized dog to demonstrate a medical device to sales people, and later destroyed the animal. The incident, which Cleveland Clinic reported to the USDA last week, at the very least violated the Clinic's official rules, but perhaps not federal law.
"Cleveland Clinic does not allow procedures with animals for the sole purpose of sales training," according to a statement Cleveland Clinic Emailed to The Scientist
. "The situation that occurred yesterday was unauthorized and not in compliance with our policy."
According to news reports, the neurosurgeon requested permission from Cleveland Clinic's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC
) to use the dog, but did not receive a response by the time of the sales demonstration. The clinic had approved the neurosurgeon's use of a dog to induce an aneurysm, but did not approve its use for the sales demonstration, the Associated Press
reported. A spokesperson for Cleveland Clinic would not comment beyond the official statement until its investigation into the incident is complete, and would not release the surgeon's name, or details on the device or its manufacturer.
Jim Rogers, spokesperson for the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, APHIS
, told The Scientist
APHIS is sending an officer to Cleveland Clinic to "review the facility and help us determine if an investigation is needed." Rogers said it is undetermined whether the neurosurgeon broke federal law in his use of the dog.
An institution's policy for animal use is determined
by the institution's IACUC, which is reviewed and approved by the USDA. General guidelines that must be followed are outlined in the federal Animal Welfare Act
(in which rats and mice are excluded
) and the Public Health Service Policy
on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. Rogers said the maximum penalty for violating the Animal Welfare Act is $2750, applied to the institution or individual that owns the license for animal use.
John Miller, executive director of the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC), said that using a dog for a sales demonstration does not violate the Animal Welfare Act per se. "What was problematic in this case was it was not permitted by [Cleveland Clinic's] IACUC, and if IACUC had known, it probably would not have approved" the use of the dog for this situation, Miller told The Scientist
. "The bottom line was it was never reviewed by IACUC so it was in violation of the Animal Welfare Act." Miller said the incident would not warrant suspension of Cleveland Clinic's accreditation by AAALAC.
This is the first time Miller has heard of a scientist sacrificing an animal for a sales event. "It has not come up in the over ten years that I've been [at the AALAC]," he said.
Harry Rozmiarek, treasurer for Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research
, which offers training for developing IACUC policies, told The Scientist
, "It would be unlikely that the terminal use of animals strictly for sales demonstrations would be acceptable" by an institution's IACUC. Rozmiarek pointed out that there are situations in which an animal might be sacrificed during physician training of a medical device, when sales people were present, but like others interviewed by The Scientist
, he said he had not heard of an IACUC permitting the use of an animal solely for a sales demonstration.
In response to the incident, the Humane Society of the United States
is urging the USDA to amend the Animal Welfare Act to explicitly prohibit the use of animals for sales demonstrations. "This is outrageous and shouldn't be allowed," Andrew Rowan, executive vice president of the Humane Society, told The Scientist
. Rowan said the incident at Cleveland Clinic reveals weaknesses in oversight
of animal use. "The USDA could do a lot more to establish national standards. Everybody makes up their own standards, and it's possible another place might have approved this protocol and seen nothing wrong with it," Rowan said.
Links within this article:
Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee
United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
R Finn, "Veterinarians in research labs address conflicting agendas," The Scientist
, May 26, 1997.
Animal Welfare Act
JK Borchardt, "US debates care standards for small laboratory animals," The Scientist
, July16, 2001.
Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals
Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care
Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research
Humane Society of the United State
O Siddiqui, "Groups attack USDA animal plan," The Scientist
, June 13, 2003.