Cleveland, OH - After receiving a call from a whistleblower who worked at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation's Lerner Research Institute, PETA has filed a complaint against the facility with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The whistleblower alleges a healthy dog - who had undergone an experimental transplant in which a heart was inserted into her neck - was killed after surgeons discovered that her airway was blocked by hay, which she was knowingly allowed to eat from the pens of other animals.
Last year, PETA exposed that an unauthorized and fatal brain surgery was performed on a dog for a medical-device sales demonstration.
According to the whistleblower, the dog was housed in the same chronic-care-unit room as pigs, cows, sheep and other animals who were recovering from painful and invasive transplant surgeries.
The dog was allegedly permitted by research monitors to run loose in the lab, harass other animals and eat their food because the staffers thought this was "fun."
If the USDA confirms the following allegations against the CCF and the whistleblower's supervisor, they would constitute serious violations of the AWA:
- Failure to provide appropriate and nondisruptive exercise for dogs
- Failure to ensure proper nutrition for dogs, allowing at least one to eat hay
- Failure to ensure adequate veterinary care for animals used in experiments by ignoring internal records that showed dogs were routinely eating hay
- Failure to adequately train research staff in their job duties, causing animals to suffer and a dog to be killed needlessly
"Thanks to this whistleblower, we have a clear picture of the neglect and carelessness inside the Cleveland Clinic Foundation's animal laboratories," says PETA Director of Laboratory Investigations Kathy Guillermo. "We're calling on the USDA to assess all appropriate penalties-including fines-against Litwak and the foundation."
Late Thursday, the Cleveland Clinic issued the following statement:
"In February 2008, an unfortunate incident occurred that resulted in the death of a dog after surgery. In this specific situation, established policies designed to prevent this from happening were not followed. Immediately after the situation, Cleveland Clinic conducted a review and took corrective action.
Cleveland Clinic takes these matters seriously and is committed to integrity in research and to the treatment of animals for research and medical education. Our Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) and members of our animal care program follow strict federal regulatory guidelines. We have received the highest level of accreditation by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC).