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USDA to probe dog death at training

Friday, January 12, 2007


CLEVELAND -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture will send an inspector to a hospital where a neurosurgeon demonstrating a medical device to salespeople deliberately induced a brain aneurysm in a dog, which was later destroyed.

The Cleveland Clinic, known for its heart center and for treating high-profile patients such as royalty, said that it had not authorized the procedure. The hospital reported itself to the USDA, which regulates animal testing.

A neurosurgeon caused the brain aneurysm in the anesthetized animal Wednesday at the clinic's Lerner Research Institute in Cleveland to demonstrate a medical device to a group of 20 to 25 salespeople. The large, mixed-breed dog was destroyed afterward because of the damage caused by the aneurysm, the clinic said.

Darby Holladay, spokesman for the USDA, would not comment on whether the clinic may have violated the Animal Welfare Act or what penalties it could face.

"We're just trying to determine what occurred here," he said.

The Animal Welfare Act sets minimum standards of care for dogs and other warm-blooded animals but does not prohibit their use in medical device demonstrations, the USDA said.

An aneurysm is an abnormal bulge in a blood vessel, which can burst and cause severe damage or death. The medical device that was demonstrated fills a brain aneurysm with a coil to stop bleeding.

In a letter to the USDA, the clinic said the hospital's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee had approved the aneurysm being induced in the dog but not the use of the device on the animal. The clinic said the committee also did not approve use of the dog in the sales demonstration. The Associated Press obtained the letter through the Freedom of Information Act.

The hospital would not identify the surgeon or whether he has been suspended, but said neither he or the clinic had any financial interest in the device.

The clinic allows testing on dogs for medical education and research and used 340 canines for research in 2005, according to USDA documents.

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