A Word from USDA


some arthritis, as they “had some trouble moving around”. Unlike the cobbler’s children being the worst shod, as the saying goes, I hope the dogs are receiving treatment for their condition, because poor health is a major source of poor welfare. Their condition is probably treatable, and one could consider it negligent for these animals not to be treated and to be left in such discomfort. It is interesting to speculate whether institutions per se can be guilty of unethical behavior, such as negligence, and if so who should bear responsibility. I believe that they can and that a culture of care comes down from the top and should apply to all of those involved with the care of these dogs. This list would include the dean of the veterinary school and the members of the IACUC, the head of anatomy, the teacher(s) using them for living anatomy, the students who recently handled the dogs, and the facility manager, Sam Holton, who already has overlooked the needs of these animals. Holton obviously ‘knows his animals’, because he noted that “they seem very much to enjoy each other’s company”, and he seems to think that that observation matters enough to mention it—and it does. There seems to be a lack of will to do anything here. Were the local newspaper or TV station to be informed, a new caregiver for the two dogs would quickly surface, but the resultant publicity might call into question the caring nature of the veterinary school and its staff. Notably, it would also highlight whether the size of the pen mattered more than the quality of the lives of Ping and Pong. Engineering standards should be guides, and deviation from them should require justification. In this case there is no problem, because the animals would suffer greater harm if those standards were rigidly enforced. If the USDA inspector insisted on engineering standards, she should be made to account for her decision, and ‘blind or blinkered compliance’ does not amount to a good decision. Single caging of social animals that have lived together for so long would be a cause of substantial distress. I would suggest that the harms done by separating these two animals and putting them singly in cages, together with their reduced use, are so great that the dogs would, in all probability, be better off dead. Perhaps the IACUC (and others) should have foreseen this problem and made arrangements for their retirement at the outset. Were two laboratory dogs actually necessary in the first place? As an alternative, the veterinary school staff could have used their own companion animals for such work, because many dogs enjoy social interactions with humans.

DOI: 10.1038/laban0704-18b

Cite this paper

@article{Gipson2004AWF, title={A Word from USDA}, author={Chester A. Gipson}, journal={Lab Animal}, year={2004}, volume={33}, pages={18-18} }