Dean, students defend Okla. veterinary school against 'barbaric' practices claim

Feb 25, 2009
Stillwater, Okla. -- Students and the dean of Oklahoma State University's Center for Veterinary Health Sciences issued strongly worded rebuttals to comments by the wife of Texas oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens about how the veterinary school treats animals it uses in teaching and research.

In an interview published Monday in the school newspaper, The Daily Collegian, Madeleine Pickens, well-known for her ties to animal-rights causes, said she wants a $5 million donation "redirected" from the veterinary school after an unnamed veterinary student told her of "barbaric" practices there.

She said the student told her surgery was performed on dogs that were anesthetized, awakened, then underwent more procedures, that "maybe (they) take out a kidney, maybe break a leg, fix it, and then they kill them."

"That's barbaric. That's what you did years ago. Medicine has changed," Pickens said, adding that she intended to write a letter of protest to Michael Lorenz, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, professor and dean of the veterinary school.

In an online letter Tuesday to school constituents, Lorenz says he wants to correct "the many false allegations" in the newspaper article.

He makes three key points:

First, that Pickens' gift made in December was to the university and was undesignated, so that "there was no gift to be taken back."

Second, that the school's animal facilities and protocols are regularly reviewed by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), the USDA, industrial partners and the AVMA's Council on Education, meet the same guidelines as other veterinary colleges, and "our academic programs have maintained full accreditation for the past 25 years."

Third, that the faculty believes live-animal surgery is essential for training of competent veterinarians. The school acquires dogs from animal shelters and other approved sources, dogs that "already are marked for euthanasia." The dogs are treated humanely throughout the process, no organs are removed except those involved in spay/neuter procedures and then they are humanely euthanized. The quote about broken bones and removed kidneys "is totally and unequivocally false," Lorenz writes.

"We assure you that we are conducting our teaching program with the most professional, ethical, compassionate and humane standards possible," he says.

Lorenz called a meeting with students Monday night to discuss Pickens' comments because students thought the article damaged the school's reputation, an OSU spokesman said.

A student who was there defended the school and its teaching program in an e-mail to DVM Newsmagazine.

"Our students are, as a whole, independent thinkers who have put a lot of thought into their personal ethical code and have not made their decisions in support of live-animal surgery lightly," says Alicia Davis, a second-year veterinary student. "The student who spoke with Mrs. Pickens has an ideological belief that is in the extreme minority at the college. The great majority of students are very supportive of our program and enthusiastic in their defense of it. I have yet to speak to a single student who does not feel that the OSU live-animal surgery procedures are humane, reasonable and a necessary part of our education."

Pickens' husband is an OSU alumnus who has donated several million dollars to various university departments.