The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 24, 2009

OSU veterinary students: Cruelty allegations by Pickens are erroneous

By Bridget Nash, Staff Writer

A Waukomis graduate at-tending Oklahoma State Uni-versity’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences is defending her school from allegations its research methods are cruel to animals.

Madeleine Pick-ens, wife of billionaire T. Boone Pick-ens, had said she was planning to give $5 million to the center but has changed her mind. She said she received information from a student OSU’s veterinary school practices “barbaric” methods, according to an article in the student newspaper, The Daily O’Collegian.

“Right now, when they buy these dogs, they bring them in and they do a surgery, put them to sleep, do the surgery, wake them up, next day, put them to sleep again, maybe take out a kidney, wake them up again, put them to sleep again, maybe break a leg, fix it, wake them up again and then they kill them,” Pickens said.

Shana Watkins, an OSU veterinary student and Waukomis High School graduate, said that’s not true.

“We get into this profession because of our love for animals,” she said.

Watkins said if claims of barbarism were true, vet students would be the first to protest.

“The biggest deal to us is the quote Ms. Pickens said about breaking legs and removing kidneys,” said Matt Wooding-ton, a fourth-year vet student. “None of that is true.”

Woodington, who came to Oklahoma from Idaho to go to OSU, said he did so because of the university’s highly regarded veterinary program.

Now, Woodington said he is in disbelief that such misinformation would be given to destroy the program’s reputation.

“When I read that article I was shocked at the amount of information that was incorrect,” said Woodington. “It’s just unfortunate.”

Watkins and Woodington said animals purchased by the university are animals that were going to be euthanized whether or not they were acquired by the university.

“We understand they are going to be euthanized anyway, so why not get something educational from it?” Woodington said.

Michael Lorenz, dean of the OSU Center for Veter-inary Health Sciences, issued a statement through the school’s press office denying the claim dogs are subjected to multiple surgeries.

“No more than two surgeries are performed on any dog,” he said in the statement. “Terminal dog surgeries are used at the majority of the United States veterinary colleges.”

Lorenz refused to talk to the media, an act dictated by officials above him, Watkins said.

She said the first surgery usually is to spay or neuter the animals, which receive the best of care during the procedure.

“We go above and beyond as far as pain management,” Watkins said.

“They’re never in any pain,” said Woodington. “It’s not barbaric by any means.”

If a second surgery is performed on the animal it is an “abdominal exploratory,” Watkins said.

She said the animal is put under for the second surgery and then humanely euthanized while it still is asleep.

“We don’t want them to suffer,” said Woodington, who said often, before euthanization, an animal is “spoiled” with a special treat, such as a cheeseburger. He said students become attached to the animals.

“It’s a very hard process for all of us,” he said.

State Reps. Lee Denney, Brian Renegar and Phil Richardson released a statement concerning the issue.

“I don’t doubt Mrs. Pickens’ intentions, but the information she was provided is inaccurate,” said Richard-son, R-Minco. “As a result, the picture she paints of the College of Veterinary Medi-cine is grossly distorted and misleading.”

“As a proud graduate of OSU’s vet school, I can say the recent claims about the school’s teaching methods are unfounded and colored by the perceptions of individuals promoting a radical animal-rights agenda instead of sound teaching methods for veterinary training.”

Woodington said students in the program know which student gave Pickens the information regarding the school’s methods. He said that student is a known animal rights activist.

Pickens said “medicine has changed” and the practice of training veterinarians on live animals should no longer continue with today’s technology.

“There are computer programs,” Watkins said. “But there is no way to simulate what would happen in surgery with a live animal.”

Watkins also said OSU’s veterinary program students were never made aware Pickens was considering making the $5 million donation. The first they heard of the money was when it was announced the program would not be receiving it, she said.

“We have never heard of that money being given to us,” Watkins said. “The vet school has never accepted money from Ms. Pickens.”

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of Humane Society of the United States, commended Pickens for her decision in a blog released on the society’s Web site.

OSU spokesman Gary Shutt said school officials would meet with Pickens to discuss how the donation should be redirected.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.