Brisbane Times; Dan Nancarrow; December 11, 2010
The University of Queensland has denied destroying healthy dogs so veterinary students could learn how to perform surgery.
The university has come under fire from animal rights campaigners who claim the Logan City Council is providing the institution with healthy, behaviorally sound dogs for students to carry out surgical procedures.
Brisbane City Council stopped providing animals in 2008 after similar complaints.
Professor Jacquie Rand said the university was only provided with animals which could not be rehomed by the council, the RSPCA and the Animal Welfare League.
She said the university did extensive behavioural research on each dog and only the dogs deemed unable to be rehomed were euthanised.
More than half the dogs put down at shelters around the country are healthy animals destroyed for behavioural reasons.
“These dogs which are being euthanised are not dogs that can be put into a sale pen; their behaviour makes them unsuitable as pets,” Professor Rand said.
“Some dogs we’ve had to keep for up to two years to try and find a home and retrain them. Shelters just don’t have those resources, neither does the vet school.”
Nonhuman Rescue Ops animal rights campaigner Simone Hewitt, who previously worked at the Logan shelter, said she believed the council was providing UQ with healthy dogs similar in behaviour to domestic animals.
Ms Hewitt said animals provided by UQ were not given the chance to go into the council’s sale pen to be rehomed.
“It is a betrayal of community trust that a shelter which is meant to be a safe haven for homeless pets that are no different to the pets you and I might have in our homes it’s just that they have lost their roof and they need to be given the opportunity to be rehomed, not dissected, vivisectioned, terminally operated on or killed,” she said.
Ms Hewitt said there were “humane options” available to teach students veterinary surgery.
“There’s simulation and cadavers,” she said.
“These student vets from UQ should be working with the RSPCA and the AWL like other universities and towns across Australia where the students go and do desexing programs on the shelter pets.”
Ms Hewitt said she believed under government guidelines the university could not, for occupational health and safety reasons, take aggressive, sick or diseased animals.
The guidelines state: “Dogs expressing behaviours associated with human or dog-directed aggression are unsuitable unless these behaviours themselves are the object of investigation.
“If risks from aggressive behaviour are not controlled, significant injury may result to individuals and competent staff may be deterred from working with dogs.”
Professor Rand said the university was not sent aggressive animals that posed a health and safety risk to staff and were not knowingly sent sick animals by Logan.
She said there were no suitable simulated models to simulate the complexities of major surgery.
A Logan City Council spokeswoman said council attempted to rehome healthy dogs through its own sales program, external agencies such as Best Friends Rescue and animal welfare agencies.
She said the dogs UQ received would have been euthanised because they had been deemed unsuitable to be rehomed due to behavioural problems such aggression.
The council has an agreement to transfer animals to the School of Veterinary Science until 2013.
Last year, Logan council’s Health and Regulatory Services Committee chairman Phil Pidgeon said councillors were “comfortable” with the surgery deal.
“At least at the end of it, we have well-trained vets who can potentially save thousands of animals’ lives,” he said.
UQ is one of only four universities in Australia that trains vets.
To adopt a pet from the university, contact the UQ Gatton Campus on (07) 5460 1834.