In August, the Animal Liberation Front claimed responsibility for stealing a dog and her five puppies from Jennersmead Research Farm at Massey University in New Zealand.
What makes the dogs in this case so special is that they are carriers of mucopolysaccharidosis, a degenerative genetic disease that in human beings typically leads to death before the age of 10. In dogs, the disease typically results in death by the second year of life.
The owner of the dog, who carries a copy of the defective gene but does not suffer from the disease, had apparently loaned her to the university for breeding purposes.
Grant Guilford, head of Massey’s Veterinary School, told The Dominion Post,
It [the genetic disease] causes wasting of the nervous system till by the end the dogs — and humans can only stagger about. We were given the dogs by a farmer who is very upset that they have been stolen. We were working with the Adelaide Women’s and Children’s Hospital on gene therapy to find a cure for this disease . . . Rehoming these dogs will put the families who take them at risk of serious trauma when the well-loved dog dies down the track.
Not that Guilford had to worry for very long. The dog and five puppies turned up at an animal shelter after being turned in a few days later by people who said that they had found the animals “dumped by the river” near the animal shelter. The shelter recognized the dogs as the stolen animals and returned them to the university.
Massey University is now in the process of reevaluating its security arrangements at its animal facilities. Guilford told the New Zealand Press Association,
The bigger problem [beyond this theft] is that the animal rightists are generalising their attacks beyond this one farm and now are doing their best to defile everything that Massey does, and so we’ve now got issues to consider whether the veterinary school itself is safe. That’s a problem, there’s 800 students and staff a day in the building.
Bitch and puppies stolen from lab handed in. Michael Daly, New Zealand Press Association, August 29, 2005.
Activists ‘liberate’ diseases lab dogs. Don Kavanagh, The Dominion Post (New Zealand), August 27, 2005.