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Richard Linklater and PETA Fight Texas A&M’s Experiments on Dogs With Muscular Dystrophy — Exclusive

It's a personal cause for the acclaimed director, whose sister graduated from the university.

Director Richard LinklaterTexas Film Awards Gala, SXSW Festival, Austin, USA - 08 Mar 2018

Richard Linklater

Suzanne Cordeiro/REX/Shutterstock

Richard Linklater is imploring a veterinary college in his native state to stop its experimentation on dogs with muscular dystrophy. In the name of medical research, Joseph Kornegay, a professor at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, performs tests on golden retrievers and other canines that carry disease genetics. On Wednesday, the Oscar-nominated writer-director-producer (“Boyhood”) sent the following letter to Kornegay’s boss and the school’s president, Michael K. Young:

Dear President Young,

I’m contacting you today after PETA shared with me the disturbing video footage documenting that golden retrievers and other dogs are caged in barren metal cells — often alone — at Texas A&M University’s canine muscular dystrophy (MD) laboratory. I’m urging you to end these experiments and release the dogs for adoption so that they can live out their remaining days in comfort.

These tests are unjustifiable. There’s no doubt in my mind that a cure must be found for MD, but these experimenters are purposely bringing dogs into the world in order to subject them to a shortened life of pain, misery, and neglect. Thirty-five years of experiments on dogs have not led to a cure or even produced an effective treatment that reverses symptoms of the disease in humans, and even MD patients are speaking out against this. I’m sure that the university’s resources could be applied to better research methods.

I’m a lifelong Texan. I grew up nearby in Huntsville, my sister graduated from A&M, and my mother did graduate work there—and I really don’t want this great university to become a symbol of superfluous cruelty to animals to the outside world. Our society is evolving very quickly in this area (it’s just not “OK” anymore), and it pains me to see my home state lagging behind. Please end this unbelievably cruel work, stop breeding dogs, and allow those suffering in your laboratories to be adopted out to families who will give them love, care, and affection. PETA and other animal-support organizations are standing by to help. Thank you for your time and attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

Richard Linklater

In December 2016, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals posted a video obtained inside Kornegay’s laboratory, showing dogs struggling to walk and excessively drooling, a side effect of swollen tongues. At the time, Texas A&M answered that the footage was “from several years ago” and released “with no context provided.”

PETA claims Kornegay breeds sick dogs, and has done so since the early ’80s; Texas A&M denies this allegation, insisting Kornegay’s subjects arrive “already affected by this disease.” The animal rights organization circulated an online petition to end the school’s use of the animals, and has coordinated multiple related protests, including one at Texas A&M’s May 10 graduation.

A representative from Kornegay’s college at Texas A&M responded to Linklater’s letter thusly:

[Duchenne muscular dystrophy] is a devastating disease that affects both children and dogs. It is a genetic disease that affects boys, all of whom die early in life, living only into their twenties, but only after much suffering. Any parent with an affected child is acutely aware of how devastating this disease is, not only to the affected children but also to their families.

The dogs with DMD at Texas A&M are treated with great care and tenderness, as they help unravel the mysteries and potential cures for this dreadful disease. Not only do our people who work with these dogs truly care about them as individuals, the work being conducted is highly regulated and there is rigorous oversight of their care by a number of organizations, including:

    • USDA (United States Department of Agriculture)
    • NIH (National Institutes of Health)
    • DOD (Department of Defense)
    • AAALAC (Accrediting body that comes around every 3 years)

It saddens us that without full knowledge — of what we are doing, how the dogs are treated, and how close we are to an effective treatment — groups have taken a rigid position and are using slander that adversely affects the opinion of those who don’t know all of the facts.

Please be assured that those who work with our dogs have chosen to devote their lives and careers to the care and well-being of all animals.

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