Hope for Humans and Dogs with Genetic Disorders

X-linked myotubular myopathy is a particularly nasty genetic disorder. It affects boys who seem healthy at birth, only to have their muscles waste away until they can’t support their bodies anymore — or even breathe — over the course of a few years. Humans are not the only animal with the mutation that causes this disorder. Puppies (also male) suffer and ultimately die from it, as well. But from tragedy, scientists are now bringing us hope: if these affected puppies can teach us how to treat x-linked myotubular myopathy, both species will ultimately benefit:

Gene Therapy Saves Puppies From A Fatal Disease—And Maybe Us Next

The dogs who were given a treatment that repaired their defective myotubularin gene avoided the crippling muscle degeneration that killed the placebo-treated dogs by week 17. And by the ninth month of study, the saved puppies’ muscle and neurological function continued to match readings from healthy dogs, particularly for those that got the highest doses.

The findings, building on an earlier proof-of-concept study of dogs and mice by the researchers, signal that a scaled-up treatment could save the lives of boys with the same sort of genetic flaw.

X-Linked Myotubular Myopathy Affects both young

X-linked myotubular myopathy affects young boys, both human and canine. We would love to see a world where neither have to suffer from it.

Animal science working at the genetic level to improve the welfare and lives of multiple species — this is just some fantastic work!

PS. if you were at our annual conference last November and this sounds familiar, you aren’t imagining it — there was an inspiring (and tear-jerking) presentation about the animal-based research that is bringing us closer to a cure for x-linked myotubular myopathy. This would be a good time to remind you to plan for the 2017 NAIA conference, Oct 2-4 in Washington DC!

 

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A Little More on Service Dogs…

On Friday, we mentioned that Wyoming is considering a bill to make misrepresenting a service animal a misdemeanor, a law that is no doubt simple common sense for many. Then, like clockwork, the story of Patsy Hayes and her latex-detection dog, Andromeda popped up the next day. Patsy Hayes is severely allergic to latex, and Andromeda lets her know latex is nearby, in order to steer clear of it. This story is a timely reminder of the value of service dogs, and of the varied, perhaps unexpected services they can perform.

The word “allergy” conjures up images of swollen eyes, dripping noses, maybe a rash — and in most cases, that is the extent of an allergic reaction. But anaphylaxis, Patsy’s reaction to latex, is far more severe: it can be life-threatening and brought on by extremely low levels of exposure.

Living with severe allergies can be extremely life-limiting, but a detection dog can help to open doors:

Years of training dogs to detect explosives and narcotics for the U.S. military and law enforcement agencies led Gavin to branch out in 2009 and focus on teaching dogs to detect an array of compounds — including nuts, milk, wheat, eggs and soy — that create serious allergic reactions in her clients.

Some of the afflicted, she said, rarely left their homes, didn’t go to school or movies, parks or churches — or even visit friends — out of fear of an allergy attack.

“But after getting a dog,” Gavin said, “they would start going places.”

Not the service dog of yesteryear, but a valuable job indeed!

cciServiceDog

Service Dog! Canine Companions for Independence

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Feb 17, 2017 - Animal Law    No Comments

Misrepresenting Pets as Service Animals Could Become Misdemeanor in WY

In Cheyenne, Wyoming, misrepresenting a pet as a service animal may become a misdemeanor carrying a fine of up to $750.

For some, issues like this inevitably evoke sarcastic responses: “Government is focusing on fake service animals now? So this must mean we’ve solved unemployment, industrial pollution, and homelessness, right? Har har har.”

But we are glad to see this issue addressed. Pets posing as service animals de-legitimizes real service animals and their work, and that comes with real consequences. Consequences for the public, for businesses, for tenants and landlords, and most importantly, for these wonderful animals and the people who depend on them their well-being and independence.

 

Good chance this dog is a great pet. Almost zero chance this dog is a service animal.

Good chance this dog is a great pet. Near certain chance this dog is not a service animal.

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Jan 14, 2017 - Veterinary Issues    No Comments

AVMA HOD Passes Resolution That Supports Responsible Breeders!

Great news: the American Veterinary Medical Association House of Delegates (AVMA HOD) has passed a resolution amendment that supports responsible breeders!

Amendment 2:

“To maximize the health and welfare of companion animals, the AVMA supports research in genetic and inherited disorders to better educate the profession and breeders on identifying and minimizing inherited disorders in companion animal breeding programs. To assist with this, the AVMA encourages veterinarians to pursue continuing education in the emerging area of genetic disease in companion animals. The AVMA also encourages veterinarians to educate breeders, companion animal owners, and the public on the responsibilities involved with breeding and selecting companion animals.”

This resolution amendment replaces an earlier breeder proposal that, while no doubt well-intentioned, was problematic due to its imprecise language and potential for unintended consequences.

VetAndDogBlog

Education, cooperation, and trust between animal experts will lead to happier, healthier animals, and this resolution amendment expresses that ideal admirably. We thank the AVMA HOD and all people involved who helped — the AKC and various AKC dog clubs, NAIA supporters and board members (with a big hat tip to Drs. Arnold Goldman and Marty Greer, and to Julian Prager), as well as individual letter writers!

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Dec 20, 2016 - Animal Law    No Comments

Judge Refuses to View Pet Dispute as Child Custody Case

While acknowledging that dogs are treated as members of the family, a Saskatoon (Canada) Judge has emphatically refused to view a divorcing couple’s dispute about pet ownership as a child custody case.

The judge said this sort of case should not be chewing up precious court time “in a justice system that is incredibly busy, where delay has virtually become systemic.”

“To consume scarce judicial resources with this matter is wasteful. In my view such applications should be discouraged,” he added.

judgedog

Don’t waste my time.

The judge also wisely got in front of the old “Dogs are property under the law, viewed just like an old table or can opener!” canard by pointing out that we are most certainly not legally entitled to treat them (or other pets) in a cruel or neglectful manner.

Of course we all love our pets and consider them part of the family, but from a legal standpoint, we couldn’t agree more with the judge that claims like this are a waste of time, talent, and resources.

 

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Dec 16, 2016 - Veterinary Issues    No Comments

AVMA Launches Cyberbullying Hotline, Online Reputation Management Service

If you are reading this blog, you no doubt know at least a few veterinarians (or hey, maybe you are a veterinarian!), so do a quick mental survey and ask yourself: do you know anybody — anybody — who pursued the profession out of a desire to “butcher” or “mutilate” animals? Think hard now! OK, didn’t think so. As with any profession, veterinarians differ in skill, experience, and temperament, but you are going to be extremely hard-pressed to find one who doesn’t care deeply about healing animals and improving their quality of life.

The simple fact of the matter is, if somebody is willing to commit the kind of time and energy it takes to become a veterinarian, they probably like animals. This doesn’t stop detractors from assuming bad intentions or cruelty on the part of veterinarians, or even smearing their reputation, however: according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), 20% of AVMA members report that they have been cyberbullied or received false reviews.

Cyberbullying and false claims doesn’t merely harm on a professional level, they are psychologically damaging, and in at least one tragic instance, harassment was a contributing factor in a veterinarian’s suicide. This is a lot more serious than a snarky Yelp review. So to address this growing issue, the AVMA has responded by launching a new hotline and reputation management service to help veterinarians fight back against cyberbullying.

Veterinarian Checking Kitten

Having worked for more than a quarter century educating the public on the difference between animal rights and animal welfare, having exposed deceit and hypocrisy on the part of animal extremists, it’s safe to say we know a little something about how nasty and personal things can become in the world of animal ethics. It remains to be seen how effective these programs will be at protecting veterinarians from abuse and false reviews, but addressing the issue itself is essential, and we hope the AVMA is successful.

We asked NAIA board member Arnold Goldman, DVM, MPH, his thoughts on these new programs, and he was decidedly enthusiastic in his response:

As veterinarians serve animal owners and their animals in the public square, they are just as vulnerable to malicious behavior by those with an agenda, as is anyone else. While thoughtful people may disagree on what constitutes good public policy, or proper animal care, no one should be subject to personal attacks online or otherwise. Unfortunately there are those in our society who may act thoughtlessly or unkindly towards those they may disagree with, or those who they feel may have wronged them. In today’s digital world, cyber-bullying is a favored tactic for those individuals. I am proud that the AVMA, my national professional society, has been and continues to be a leader in providing its members, my colleagues, with the resources necessary to protect themselves from unfair and unkind online attacks. As such, AVMA provides its members a hotline as well as on demand reputation management counseling. For this reason, and so many others, every veterinarian should be a member of AVMA. AVMA stands up for the veterinary profession.

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Oct 25, 2016 - Animal Research    No Comments

Congratulations to NAIA Board Member Dr. Robert Speth!

Big congratulations are in order for Nova Southeastern University (NSU) professor of pharmacology, bioethicist, and NAIA Board Member Dr. Robert Speth, who just received NSU’s Sixth Annual Provost’s Research and Scholarship Award!

This award is to honor NSU faculty members who have demonstrated “significant achievement in support of NSU’s mission to foster scholarship, intellectual inquiry, and academic excellence.” Provost Ralph V. Rogers Jr., PhD, had these glowing words for Dr. Speth:

Dr. Speth has distinguished himself as a researcher, an educator, and a staunch supporter of the NSU community. He has truly demonstrated what this award is meant to recognize: innovative and sustained activities in support of NSU’s mission to foster intellectual inquiry, academic excellence, research and a dynamic learning environment.

Dr. Robert Speth Receiving Award

Photo caption (left to right): Ralph V. Rogers Jr., Ph.D., NSU executive vice president and provost; Robert C. Speth, Ph.D.; Lisa Deziel, Pharm.D., Ph.D., dean, NSU College of Pharmacy; Stanley Cohen, Ed.D., nominator; George L. Hanbury II, Ph.D., NSU president & CEO.

Dr. Speth’s is known for his work studying brain receptors for neurotransmitters and hormones. He focuses on the hormone angiotensin, which causes hypertension. His research has shown that receptors for angiotensin in the brain are strategically located to stimulate nerves that act upon the cardiovascular system to raise blood pressure. He is also widely recognized as a resource on the ethics of animal research. We are proud to have Dr. Speth as a board member, and thrilled to see him receive this prestigious reward!

 

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Sep 19, 2016 - Shelter & Rescue    No Comments

Risks of unfettered dog importation recognized by Canadian veterinarians

Just a quick shout-out here for the veterinarians and other experts in Canada who are speaking out on the risks associated with willy-nilly dog importation.

What is so important here are the factors involved:

  • Risks have been outlined (exotic illnesses and parasites that can affect dogs, humans, and other animals– e.g. Brucella canis and Leishmaniasis)
  • Realistic solutions have been targeted (you can’t stop all dogs from moving between different countries and regions, so what is the “low hanging fruit” that can be plucked and reduce the risks?)
  • These goals are cooperative in nature (veterinarians, border security, rescues, and breeders who ship animals are all being called on to do their part)

 

And also a big “YES!” to Bragg Creek veterinarian Judith Samson-French, who speaks to the importance of promoting local rescue, while solving foreign problems at the source:

“We are actually enabling a problem elsewhere because people need to learn to spay and neuter their dogs and how to help the overpopulation of dogs,” the veterinarian said.

“If we always take care of the problem from the outside, it never brings a solution from the inside… [We should] lend resources, in terms of knowledge and financial help, to do that.”

Of course, solving issues like this is much harder than outlining a good plan, but recognizing a serious issue and taking a firm stand is an excellent start!

 

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No “Sanctuary” for Chimpanzees: When Ideology Trumps Animal Welfare

If you follow animal issues, you probably know that invasive biomedical research with chimpanzees is no longer carried out unless:

  1. it is necessary to advance public health; and
  2. there are no other means for doing so.

 

You may also be aware of the fact that their has been a concerted effort, spearheaded by HSUS, to remove chimpanzees from research settings and place them in sanctuaries.

But did you know that 69% of Chimpanzees taken from the MD Anderson Keeling Center (MDAKC) to live in a sanctuary have died — most within a few months?

Sadly, the fact of the matter is a “good intention” is not enough, and no US sanctuary is staffed or equipped to care for chimpanzees like MDAKC.

This blog from Speaking of Research touches on this issue eloquently, using Dr. Cindy Buckmaster, NAIA Board Member and Chair of Americans for Medical Progress as a source.

In fact, many of our chimps would fare better if they were allowed to retire in place. And several of these precious creatures have already suffered and died because the NIH would not allow them to do so. The MD Anderson Keeling Center (MDAKC) in Texas has been home to the healthiest, happiest chimpanzees in America for decades. Their living quarters are comparable to, or better, than any US sanctuary, and none of these sanctuaries can compete with the level of care provided to chimpanzees at MDAKC. The MDAKC staff includes ten full-time veterinarians with a combined total of 92 years of experience caring for chimpanzees; 6 are specially boarded primate veterinarians, 3 are specially boarded veterinary pathologists, and 3 are specially certified to provide laser and acupuncture therapies to supplement traditional treatment regimens. There are also 22 specially trained, full-time technicians devoted to the chimps’ husbandry, health and behavioral needs, including 3 night technicians. MDAKC also has a full-service clinical pathology laboratory on site that allows for the immediate diagnosis and treatment of animals with health concerns. No US sanctuary is staffed or equipped to care for chimpanzees like MDAKC, not one! In fact, the sanctuary that the NIH is forcing us to send our chimpanzees to currently is not even equipped to carry out its own diagnostic lab work. This is concerning, given the advanced age of many research chimpanzees. Honestly, it would make more sense for Dr. Collins to retire the nation’s research chimps to MDAKC!

While we may disagree on the details, we all want to see the animals in our care safe, healthy, and happy. But in our view this is a tragic and clear case of ideology trumping animal welfare, and a story that needs to be told.

 

Maynard, who had a fatal heart attack in the sanctuary the day after he was introduced to a new group of chimpanzees

Maynard, removed from his family at MDAKC, had a fatal heart attack in the sanctuary the day after he was introduced to a new group of chimpanzees.
Photo credit: MDAKC

Dr. Buckmaster’s entire article can be found here, with a subscription.

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