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OSU responds to criticism of vet school

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP)--After being criticized by the wife of Oklahoma State University's billionaire benefactor T. Boone Pickens, school officials are defending animal research methods that include multiple surgeries on live animals and euthanasia.

Madeline Pickens, an OSU donor and supporter of animal rescue programs, told the student newspaper, The Daily O'Collegian, in mid-February that she requested her $5 million donation to the university's veterinary school be redirected.

Pickens said she made the decision after a student at the OSU Center for Veterinary Health Sciences informed her of "barbaric" practices, including the breaking of animal's bones and removing organs as part of teaching and research.

An OSU spokesman, Gary Shutt, said Feb. 23 that no animal is subjected to broken bones or organ removal as part of OSU's veterinarian teaching program.

"This simply is not accurate," he said.

Michael Lorenz, dean of the Center for Veterinary Health Sciences, issued a statement through the OSU press office after declining interviews with the media. He said the information Pickens received was mostly incorrect.

"No more than two surgeries are performed on any dog," Lorenz said in his statement. "Terminal dog surgeries are used at the majority of the United States veterinary colleges."

Pickens said she sent a letter to OSU on Feb. 23, asking the school to redirect her donation to other areas within the school.

Shutt said that OSU would meet with Madeleine Pickens to discuss how the donation should be redirected.

Pickens said she went public with her concerns after realizing that her suggestions for allocating her donation were not being heeded.

"OSU is a very marvelous school with a new leadership, but some of the responses to my suggestions for reaching out to the community were pathetic," she said.

Animals used at the 28 veterinary colleges nationwide come from a variety of sources, said Mike Chaddock, deputy director of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges. The most common sources for live animals are breeders, shelters and pet owners.

Professors must balance education with animal welfare, Chaddock said. Many teachers will use diagrams, cadavers or models if possible, but sometimes working with a living animal is the only way to train students.

"I would equate it to human procedures," he said. "There are some procedures we'd hope our doctor learned to do on a real patient."

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