10 Years Behind Bars: Free the Dogs in TAMU's Muscular Dystrophy Lab

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Update: February 3, 2021
Records just obtained by PETA show that a golden retriever named Karbach was freed from Texas A&M University’s (TAMU) canine muscular dystrophy (MD) laboratory and adopted! She spent just shy of five years as a prisoner before finally getting the home she so deserves.

But the school callously denied another dog that chance. Records also show that Jumba, a dark-blond dog who was affected by canine MD—the painful disease he was purposely bred to have—was euthanized in December. Over the course of his imprisonment, records show that he had difficulty swallowing as well as stiffness and pain in a front paw. In his final days, he was noted to have a poor appetite and was thin and dehydrated.

Twenty-one dogs, many of whom are completely healthy, remain in TAMU’s barren cages, despite PETA’s repeated offers to place them in permanent and loving homes. There appear to be no studies being conducted that experimenters could even pretend are contributing to a cure. Experimenters are performing imaging studies on the sick dogs—something that could easily be done on humans with the human form of MD so that human patients might actually be helped.

It seems that TAMU would prefer to warehouse dogs rather than releasing them to adopters or to PETA and admitting that its MD lab is finished, and that means that we need to keep the pressure on. You can help us by taking action below.

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Update: December 9, 2020
Brioche will be home for the holidays! Records just obtained by PETA show that the 2-year-old golden retriever was freed from Texas A&M University's canine muscular dystrophy laboratory and adopted. When she was a puppy, experimenters observed that Brioche limped after her front leg became stuck in the bars of her enclosure. Several months later, they noticed that large patches of hair were missing from her body. Those days of suffering are behind her now. Let's make the same happen for the remaining 23 dogs. Your voice is powerful! Please use it to take action below.

Update: December 7, 2020
Documents obtained by PETA show that Jambi, a 10-year-old golden retriever, was euthanized in April of this year because of complications related to canine muscular dystrophy (MD) and cancer. Experimenters bred him to have MD, a painful illness that condemned him to a lifetime of suffering. Texas A&M University compounded his misery by imprisoning him in a barren laboratory cell and performing invasive, useless procedures on him. Will you help us get the remaining 24 dogs home for the holidays?

Update: November 16, 2020
Thanks to the many e-mails and calls from PETA supporters, another dog imprisoned in Texas A&M University's barren canine muscular dystrophy laboratory has been freed! Records just obtained by PETA show that Kenickie, a 6-year-old German shorthaired pointer who was always exercised alone during his imprisonment, has been adopted. Now let's get the remaining 24 dogs into the homes they so deserve. You can help by taking action below.

Update: September 22, 2020
You did it! We asked you to call and e-mail and demand that dogs who have spent years inside Texas A&M University's canine muscular dystrophy laboratory finally be given a chance to live in a home, and the school has listened! Records just obtained by PETA show that Lucilla, Varinia, and Cheddar were adopted. The documents also indicate that there are just 25 dogs remaining in the infamous laboratory. However, a dog named Jambi was missing from the records that we've received, so we're questioning Texas A&M about that. We won't leave any dog behind. PETA has offered to take all the dogs still imprisoned by Texas A&M.

Updated May 19, 2020:
Records from Texas A&M University indicate that Ganondorf collapsed in his kennel and died on January 21, 2020, three months shy of turning 10 years old. Multiple times over the nine days before he died, experimenters observed blood in the kennel where the dog was imprisoned alone. Even when blood was smeared on the wall and floor and he was reported as having a decreased appetite, experimenters simply advised, "Continue to monitor." Born in a laboratory, Ganondorf had a life of unmitigated pain and misery—treated for all of his years as a piece of equipment. Given that experimenters failed to intervene to help him when he was suffering, PETA has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture urging the agency to investigate the university for violating the federal Animal Welfare Act.

In February 2020, PETA obtained records revealing that Bruno—a dog suffering from canine muscular dystrophy who never knew a single moment of freedom—had died in November 2019, just months before his 10th birthday. In his final days, his appetite diminished as his weakened muscles made it even more difficult for him to swallow, and he struggled to breathe. On November 29, a laboratory worker described him as "very depressed … [n]o appetite and reluctant to get up or move." Because of his worsening health problems—complications of the disease that he was intentionally bred to have—Bruno was euthanized later that day. It's not too late to help other dogs at Texas A&M who've been imprisoned for a decade, as Bruno was.

For many, a 10-year anniversary is an opportunity to reflect on the past decade and plot a course for the next one, a welcome chance to pause, to ponder.

Others struggle to summon the strength to endure yet another day.

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Jelly, shown here in an article about Kornegay’s experiments, suffered from damaged ligaments and weakened muscles after developing muscular dystrophy. He used her and other dogs to search for pharmacologic therapies for the disease—an effort that has failed so far.

Medical records obtained by PETA provide a glimpse into the lonely and frightening lives of seven dogs, locked away for the past decade or more in spartan cages inside laboratories, first at the University of North Carolina and then in Texas A&M University’s (TAMU) muscular dystrophy (MD) laboratory. This is the beginning of their second decade locked up and suffering.

Six of the dogs—Bruno, Ganondorf, Jambi, Pee Wee, Grinch, and Ned—were born with canine MD, a debilitating and degenerative muscle disease. This was not a sad misfortune of genetic error. Experimenters deliberately bred these dogs to have the condition. They have endured chronic pain, frightening tests, and unrelenting frustration and loneliness, caged in a desolate laboratory—for an entire decade.

These cruel experiments have been going on for 40 years, but they have failed to produce a cure or even a treatment that reverses debilitating MD symptoms in human patients.

The following stories were pieced together from sparse medical records kept by experimenters. The documents read like an inventory of broken equipment, which speaks volumes about the ways the dogs are treated by their captors.

Bruno, a dark-blond golden retriever, was born on April 22, 2010. He has never known a real home or even another dog because he has spent almost every day of the last 10 years alone, locked in a cage.

Shortly after he was born, Bruno was determined to have canine MD. The experimenters were delighted because this is what they wanted. Bruno had two brothers, also born with canine MD, but they died when they were 1 and 4 days old, respectively. They were the lucky ones.

Bruno was a little more than a year old when he developed his first ear infection, a condition that recurred several times over the following year. For the next eight years, his health deteriorated as his muscles decayed. He suffered from recurring respiratory ailments. His right front paw began to give out, unable to support weight. His muscles atrophied. He became infected with intestinal parasites. The fur on his hindquarters fell out. When he was 9, his liver began to fail, and experimenters noted a "[m]arked atrophy of [right] side [of the] abdominal wall."

In August 2019, there were 10 days in which Bruno couldn't eat all his food, a common occurrence for these dogs, whose muscles are so weak that they often have difficulty even swallowing their own saliva.

Between January and November of that year, records show that experimenters let him out of his cage for exercise just 27 times, an average of little more than twice a month.

Ganondorf, a medium-blond golden retriever with a narrow white star on his forehead, was born on April 12, 2010. Records show that at 3 years old, he was already having difficulty eating, his breathing was labored, and he had difficulty swallowing even his saliva. Like Bruno, he also had ear infections. Experimenters labeled him a "picky eater" that same year and diagnosed him with a low platelet count. Records show that some of his teeth were pulled in 2018. Last year, he suffered from severe gingivitis, elevated cholesterol, and a perianal mass—a tumor close to his anus—which continues to grow.

Ganondorf has also spent his life alone in a cage. Records show that in 2019, he was let out for exercise—alone—16 times between January 30 and October 11, less than twice a month.

peony in lab
Peony was bred to develop a form of muscular dystrophy that caused her tongue to enlarge, making her salivate uncontrollably. Ropes of saliva, as seen in this photo, hung from her mouth. It was difficult for her to swallow, eat, or even breathe.

Jambi, a dark-blond golden retriever with flecks of white on his chest and stomach, was born on May 24, 2010. He has suffered from intestinal parasites, dermatitis, and ear infections. His muscles are so weak that he has great difficulty eating. In 2019, for each month between January and November, records show that he couldn't finish his meals an average of 14 days, or about half the days in each month. He couldn't finish eating as many as 20 days in both January and April. He's caged with another dog, Pee Wee, and was let out for exercise 19 times between January 30 and November 1, 2019, less than twice a month.

Pee Wee, a dark-blond golden retriever with white tufts of fur on his chest, was born on May 24, 2010, in the same litter as Jambi. A medical notation from Pee Wee's files from when he was 9 indicates that his muscles had atrophied, he suffered from a heart arrhythmia, and he had high cholesterol and early indications of liver failure.

For each month between January and November 2019, records show that Pee Wee couldn't finish his meals an average of about 16 days, or more than half the days in each month. He couldn't finish eating as many as 24 days in April. During roughly the same period, he was let out of his cage just 17 times, or a little more than once a month.

Grinch, a German shorthaired pointer, was born on June 7, 2011. There are many notations in his records from 2019 and 2020 indicating that he was leaving some or all of his food uneaten. In 2019, he was observed having difficulty getting up, and later that year, his muscle atrophy was noted to have progressed. In 2020, it was noted that he had pressure sores on all four legs and his pulse was abnormal. Later that year, a pressure ulcer was found on one of his paws. As a result, a cushioned mat was added to his cage. Records show that he was exercised with Ned or Pee Wee or alone.

Ned, also born on June 7, 2011, is Grinch’s brother. In 2019, he was observed to be limping and his appetite was frequently described as fair or poor. This was the case in 2020, too, when he was also seen struggling to stand up on his hind legs. Inexplicably, in response to his ongoing poor appetite, the records appear to indicate that the amount of food he was given was reduced but no treatment of any kind was noted. He was also found to have a large amount of dental tartar. Records show that he was exercised with Grinch or a dog named Jumba or alone.

Like Bruno, Ganondorf, Jambi, Pee Wee, Grinch, and Ned, Lucilla has spent many years imprisoned in cold, barren laboratories. A white German shorthaired pointer with brown markings, she was born on September 23, 2011, and while she isn’t afflicted with canine MD, she carries the gene for the condition—so she was used to breed litters of puppies for the laboratory.

At 3 months old, she was diagnosed with intestinal parasites. By the following year, records show that she suffered from hair loss and had a cut on her ears, which scabbed over and was possibly caused by "trauma via eating,'' with no further explanation. Experimenters found a benign mammary tumor when she was 15 months old—they believe from a false pregnancy. She was likely subjected to painful and invasive artificial insemination dozens of times and likely gave birth to multiple litters of puppies who went on to become laboratory tools like their mother. At 7 years old, she continued to be used for breeding, but she gave birth to a stillborn pup. She was spayed in May 2019. She was caged with another dog, Varinia. Lucilla was let out of her cage 36 times between January and November 2019, or about three times a month.

Experimenters treated these dogs like laboratory equipment, denying them everything that would have made their lives worth living. Ten years is 10 years too long. They need to be released. In the time they have left, help them know kindness and love. Please, TAKE ACTION below and let TAMU know that it's time to release the dogs from the MD laboratory.

Junkins, Ph.D.
Texas A&M University

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