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What We Did To Rodney
From Animals in Print 17 Apr 2001

We called him Rodney. He was a tall, gangly, flea-bitten shepherd mix. One ear stood up, shepherd style, and the other flopped over and bounced against his head like a rag doll when he ran. His head and feet were too big for his thin but muscular body. A stale, musty odor accompanied him from flea-infested skin and neglected ears. Altogether, he wasn't much to look at, one of thousands of dogs facing the world without the luxury of an owner.

I was in my third year of veterinarian school and he came from the local dog pound. For the next quarter, four of us students would practice surgery techniques on him, the first of our small animal surgery training. The first thing we did was neuter him, a seemingly benign project, except it took us an hour to complete the usual 20-minute procedure, and an anesthetic overdose kept him out for 36 hours. Afterward he recovered his strength quickly and felt good.

Two weeks later, we did an abdominal exploratory, opening his abdomen, checking his organ inventory, and closing him again. This was the first major surgery for any of us, and with inadequate supervision we did not close him properly. By the next morning, his incision had opened and he was sitting on his small intestine. Hastily, we sewed him up again, and he survived.

The following week, again when he was under anesthesia, we broke his leg and repaired it with a steel pin. After this, Rodney seemed in almost constant pain, his temperature rose, and he didn't rebound so easily as he had in the past. His resiliency gone, despite antibiotic treatment, he never recovered.

The quarter was ending, and Rodneys days were numbered One afternoon we put him to sleep. As the life drained from his body and his eyes lost their focus, my attitude toward animal research began to change.

I am a scientist, weaned on the scientific method .. But after 15 years in the veterinary profession, I now believe there are moral and ethical considerations that outweigh any benefits. Because we happen to be the most powerful species on Earth, we humans have the ability- but not the right- to abuse the so-called lower animals. The ends do not justify the means.

~Peter M. Henricksen, D. V. M.

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM)

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