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Opinion | Wayne State University should stop cruel experiments on dogs

Each December for 50 years I wrote a check to my alma mater, Wayne State University. I was proud to have earned my medical degree there, one of the few women in the graduating class of 1964. But I was recently confronted with the disturbing reality that my donations support cruel, deadly experiments on dogs.

Gertrude Gregory
Gertrude Gregory is a retired physician from Saginaw.

Until that practice ends, Wayne State will never get another dollar from me.

We feel strongly about our alma maters, where we launched our careers and developed lifelong relationships. So when those institutions ask for money, nostalgia compels us to open our wallets. But we can’t say how our donations will be spent. Will the university buy classroom equipment? Will it expand the library? Or will it purchase cages for dogs, new lights for the sterile rooms where those dogs spend their tortured lives, and plastic bags to dispose of the animals’ bodies once faculty experimenters are through with them? 

Since 1991, Wayne State has conducted some of the cruelest and most useless dog experiments in the country. Hundreds of dogs have been subjected to invasive surgeries and forced to run on treadmills while their heart rates are artificially elevated – until their bodies can no longer take it. In effect, they are run to death. For many years, those dogs were given names – some of them after famous Michiganders: Madonna, Seger, and Alice Cooper. But in recent years, dogs have only been given numbers – maybe to make it easier for staff to see them as equipment rather than individuals. 

One such dog, #9011, was a red tick hound mix who arrived at Wayne State in December 2018. During her first three months there, medical records reveal that she suffered multiple injuries: a wound on her right side and an attack by her cage mate that resulted in “moderate to severe bleeding.” But the worst was yet to come.

 In May 2019, Wayne State staff subjected dog #9011 to two major surgeries in which they implanted five medical devices and three catheters in her heart and around major arteries. The devices were attached to cables that staff pushed under her skin and out through an incision between her shoulder blades.

One day after her second surgery, dog #9011 was “struggling to breathe,” and staff euthanized her. Both of her lungs had collapsed, a physically painful and all-too-common occurrence at Wayne State that is the result of the invasive nature of the surgeries. Thus, many dogs die before the experiments are actually conducted. 

I worked for decades to ensure the health of our state’s residents. I treated workers at Ford’s Rouge Complex and its Tractor Division plants in Highland Park and Romeo as well as private clinics and at Henry Ford Hospital. I have seen the debilitating effects of heart disease, the leading cause of death in Michigan and nationwide. Wayne State claims its dog experiments address heart failure and hypertension, but there is no evidence of that. Instead, the research has only produced paychecks for the faculty member in charge and a lot of dead dogs in plastic bags.

All of us, whether or not we donate directly to Wayne State, are supporting this cruelty. Since 1991, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has given the lead experimenter more than $15 million. All of that taxpayer money has come with one requirement, the publication of “scientific” papers, which is the only reason NIH has provided for continuing to fund the experiments. Thankfully, legislators in Lansing are trying to stop this. Senate Bill 582, which was introduced in June, would outlaw painful experiments on dogs at public institutions.

Many of us can’t imagine our four-legged friends being subjected to the brutality that is routine at Wayne State, and we shouldn’t ignore it because it’s done by people in white coats.

While I battled COVID-19 last year, my boxer Hestia stayed by my side every day, often settling her chin on the bed as if to say, “It’s going to be alright.” I hope every graduate of Wayne State who has a friend like Hestia will think twice before donating. Until the dog experiments end, our alma mater can’t be trusted with our generosity.

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