Mayo Clinic Research Look at Cleft Palate Repair Technique in Dogs

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic recently reported that their studies in dogs of a procedure designed to fix cleft palate suggests the technique shows promise.

Cleft palate is a relatively common birth defect where a child is born with a gap in the roof of the mouth — it affects about 700 to 1,000 newborns annually in the United States

The researchers at the Mayo Clinic used dogs to study a process called distraction osteogenesis, “a procedure that uses the mechanical force of an appliance to lengthen soft tissue and bone” according to Science Daily.

Eric Moore, MD, told Science Daily,

Right now, nobody tries to close cleft palate with distraction osteogenesis. It’s used in other areas of the body and other craniofacial problems, but not in cleft palate. Before taking it to the clinic to use in people, we wanted to try it in an animal model. This study tells us that it is possible to close cleft palate with distraction osteogenesis.

Bob Teibesar, chief resident in May Clinic Department of Ortohinoloaryngology told Science Daily that the method is potentially superior to existing methods of correct a cleft palate because “it brings in bone and soft tissue to cover the opening. This has positive implications for the shape of the palate and for speech later.”

Dogs were chosen for this study due to the similarities the canine mouth shares with the human mouth.


New method to fix cleft palate shows promise in Mayo Clinic lab study. Science Daily, January 24, 2005.

Man Convicted of Selling Dogfighting Tapes

In what is believed to be the first test of the law, a Virginia man was convicted in Pennsylvania in January for selling dogfighting videos.

A jury took just 45 minutes to convict Robert Stevens, 64, of three counts of selling videos that depict animal cruelty. This is believed to be the first prosecution under a 1999 law banning such videos.

Stevens did not attempt to dispute the facts in the case, but instead his lawyer argued that the videos are protected under the First Amendment. The law makes exceptions for videos that have “serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical or artistic value,” and Stevens’ attorney argued that the dogfighting videos had historical value, though the jury disagreed with him.

Another interesting twist is that some of the videos were filmed in Japan, where dogfighting is apparently not illegal.

There was no indication as to whether or not Stevens plans to appeal his conviction. He’d probably have a number of avenues for such an appeal, including that when the law was originally passed and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, it was clearly intended to outlaw “crush” videos in which animals are trampled to death for the sexual gratification of the viewer. Here, however, even the prosecution conceded there was no sexual intent to the videos distributed by Stevens.


Ban on videos of animal cruelty tested. Torsten Ove, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 12, 2005.

Virginia man guilty of selling depictions of animal cruelty. Torsten Ove, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 14, 2005.

Bardot Lends Support to Irish Hare Coursing Ban

French animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot recently sent a letter to the Irish Council Against Blood Sports supporting that group’s campaign to ban hare coursing in Ireland.

Hare coursing is the practice of releasing a hare and allowing two dogs, usually greyhounds, to chase it down. Along with the animals killed, activists also complain that even hares that survive are terrified and traumatized in the process.

Northern Ireland has temporarily halted hare coursing, but it is still legal in the Irish Republic and the government there has said it has no intention of changing the law to ban hare coursing.

Dick Roche, Environment Minister for the Irish Republic, was quoted by Ireland On-Line as saying,

There is no evidence that hare coursing in Ireland adversely impacts on the conservation of hare populations and there are no proposals to change existing arrangements for the licensed netting of wild hares for live hare coursing.

Which, of course, means that hare coursers in Northern Ireland can simply conduct their hare coursing in the Irish Republic, which doesn’t make the ICABS very happy.


Bardot lends support to hare coursing ban. Ireland On-Line, January 19, 2005.

Misleading the Public about the Value of Animal Research in the Case of Deramaxx

Are human beings and dogs too different for medical research on dogs to help understand human disease? A number of animal rights activists were practically gloating when a Novartis spokesman appeared to say so in January.

Novartis had its hands slapped by the Food and Drug Administration over its failure to timely report about the death of dogs taking Deramaxx. Deramaxx is a COX-2 inhibitor that is used as a painkiller in dogs after surgery. COX-2 inhibitors have come under a lot of scrutiny recently due to studies suggesting they may elevate the risk of heart attacks.

The FDA complained that Novartis had not timely reported deaths of dogs who were given Deramaxx. Reuters quoted a spokesman for Novartis, however, as downplaying any link between the dog deaths and the problems reported in human beings with COX-2 inhibitors,

Joseph Burkett, a spokesman for Novartis Animal Health Services, said the cardiovascular problems linked to such drugs for people were “not an issue” for dogs, because canine hearts are different from those of humans.

Obviously, a pharma official seeming to say that dog and human hearts are too different for research on one to be relevant to the other was a nice gift to the animal rights activists, but it was also inaccurate and deceptive. Either the spokesman or the journalist simply screwed up and oversimplified why the deaths in dogs are probably irrelevant to human beings in this case.

The reality is this: COX-2 inhibitors appear to elevate the risk of heart attacks in human beings who already suffer from hypertension. Hypertension is simply not a prevalent problem in healthy dogs. As Novartis noted on its web site,

The cardiovascular risks suspected to be related to coxib-class NSAIDs in people is extremely unlikely to be an issue in dogs. The risks associated with these drugs in humans involve an increased risk of heart attacks, especially in patients with hypertension (high blood pressure). Heart attacks and hypertension are rarely an issue in healthy dogs. A heart attack occurs when one or more vessels that supply the heart muscle itself with blood become blocked. The blockage is usually caused by cholesterol accumulation along the walls of the blood vessels. This condition is called atherosclerosis, or “hardening of the arteries.” Heart attacks in dogs are rare because dogs are extremely unlikely to get atherosclerosis and dogs have a higher number of vessels which supply blood to the heart. Thus, if one vessel becomes clogged there are additional vessels that supply blood to the heart. High blood pressure is also not a problem in healthy dogs since hypertension in humans is heavily influenced by lifestyle (stress, diet, exercise and smoking).

So if you wanted to study the effects of a hypertension drug in an animal model, healthy dogs would not be your first choice. Typically in studying hypertension with dogs, hypertension would be induced surgically.


FDA links dog deaths to drug. Reuters, December 29, 2004.

Killing Dogs to Save People in Wake of Tsunami

Shortly after the horrendous tsunami that struck southeast Asia, the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu faced a problem with feral dogs that were attacking refugees, especially around mealtime. Tamil Nadu responded by organizing roundups of stray dogs and then killing the feral dogs.

Shantha Sheela Nair, who headed up relief efforts in Tamil Nadu, told the Daily Telegraph that a gruesome after-effect of the tsunami apparently led the dogs to begin focusing on human beings,

The starving dogs’ behavior changed after they began eating animal and human corpses washed ashore soon after the tsunami.

After the bodies were cleared, the dogs apparently began threatening and attacking humans at refugee shelters.

According to the Daily Telegraph, stray dogs are a major problem in India and responsible for a staggering 20,000 rabies deaths each year. People who dump the carcasses of animals in centralized places have encouraged the emergence of packs of carrion-eating dogs which can end up attacking human beings.


Cull begins after feral dogs attack survivors. Rahul Bedi, The Daily Telegraph, January 1, 2005.

Great Britain's Ban on Fox Hunting Finally Goes Through

After years of trying and failing to force through a ban on fox hunting, the Labor government finally succeeded in passing a law that will ban fox hunting with hounds beginning in February 2005.

In order to do so, however, the government had to invoke the Parliament Act for only the fourth time since 1949. The Parliament Act allows the House of Commons to override opposition from the House of Lords. With the House of Lords again opposing the ban on fox hunting by a vote of 153-114, invoking the Parliament Act was the only way the ban was ever going to happen.

Since 1949, the Parliament Act had only been used to pass the War Crimes Act of 1991, the European Parliamentary Elections Act of 1999, and the Sexual Offences Act of 2000 (to lower the age of consensual sex for homosexuals). Apparently, the Labor government find fox hunting to be an issue on the same scale as war crimes and sexual offences.

Royal Society for the Prevent of Cruelty to Animals’ John Rolls called the bill,

. . . a watershed in the development of a more civilized society for people and animals.

But many of those involved in the act — including supporters — see the bill as being not so much about animals, but rather being about British class warfare.

On November 21, for example, Labor MP Peter Bradley — a strong proponent of the ban — penned an op-ed for the Sunday Telegraph headlined, “Yes, this is about class war” which read, in part,

Now that hunting has been banned, we ought at last to own up to it: the struggle over the Bill was not just about animal welfare and personal freedom, it was class war.

Labour governments have come and gone and left little impression on the gentry. But a ban on hunting touches them. It threatens their inalienable right to do as they please on their land. For the first time, a decision of a Parliament they don’t control has breached the lodge gates.

The placards of the Countryside Alliance plead “Listen to Us”, but what they mean is “Do What We Say” – as for centuries we have. That old order no longer prevails. Deference has been eroded by a new, universal prosperity. It’s the recognition of that irrevocable change that has made the campaign for hunting so fierce and yet so futile.

The landowners have come to realize that although they still own the country, they no longer run it. That does not make them the victimized minority they claim to be, but it does make them very angry.

So the minority which for centuries ran this country from the manor houses of rural England now rails against the hegemony of an elected majority in Parliament. And, covertly encouraged by some peers and Tory grandees, those who today threaten to defy the laws they do not like bear the names of the legislators who for generations kept the rest of us in our place.

But the problem the landowners face is not theirs alone. It is shared by the Conservatives with whom, to their mutual disadvantage, they are so closely associated.

. . .

The old order is going, but its values continue to dominate the Tory belief system. In a culture that now demands equality of opportunity, too many Conservatives can only properly enjoy what others do not have.

That is why they have an ideological commitment to private health and public schools. It’s why they oppose the right to roam and a ban on hunting. For them it’s ownership of property, especially land, and not citizenship that confers privilege. It’s why they believe that the rights of minorities – or at least their minority – should prevail over those of majorities. But in an age in which we are all aspirational and few are deferential, that is an increasingly unappealing philosophy. The tide is against the Tories as it is against the hunters and, now more than ever, the House of Lords.

Fox hunting supporters, for their part, vowed to defy the ban. Countryside Alliance chairman John Jackson told the Associated Press,

True civil disobedience is now on the horizon.

In fact, several hundred hunt supporters protested outside a banquet hosted by Queen Elizabeth II for visiting French President Jacques Chirac.


Yes, this is about class war. Peter Bradley, Sunday Telegraph, November 21, 2004.

Queen approves hunting ban. ic Croydon, November 18, 2004.

Brits outlaw fox hunting. Associated Press, November 18, 2004.