News: Abuse Claims Dog P&G

Animal rights activists demand changes in product testing

Sep 24, 2003 at 2:06 pm
Jymi Bolden

Police hose two animal-rights protesters, removing fake blood before putting them in patrol cars. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals accuses a P&G subsidiary of mistreating dogs in product testing.

Spattered with fake blood and wearing prison stripes and dog masks, two protesters writhed in mock agony Sept. 17 on the sidewalk outside Procter & Gamble Plaza downtown.

The graphic display came after Stephanie Corrigan and Joel Bartlett, both age 22 and residents of Norfolk, Va., allegedly threw fake blood on a P&G sign. After arresting the pair, Cincinnati Police officers hosed them down with water before placing them in a patrol car. Police charged both with vandalism. Corrigan was also charged with resisting arrest for going limp when police arrested her.

About 15 yards away, members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) shouted slogans calling for a boycott of Iams, a P&G-owned manufacturer of dog and cat food. One member, also wearing prison fatigues and a dog mask, sat in a 3 feet by 3 feet cage.

PETA is calling upon the Iams Co. to do better in its treatment of dogs and cats used in its nutritional testing.

A statement by P&G calls PETA's allegations false, saying the animal rights group "is highly sensationalized and misrepresents our efforts."

A research facility under contract to Iams recently hired an undercover PETA investigator.

The investigator worked at the facility for almost 10 months and filmed several test animals exhibiting what PETA member Allison Ezell calls "stereotypic behavior" of dogs being confined in small spaces with no social interaction.

"What we found was nothing short of shocking," Ezell says. "These dogs and cats are no different than cats and dogs in terms of household pets. Just like any human or other animal in a cage, they would go mad."

Among the horrors that the PETA investigator allegedly revealed were dogs and cats confined to small cages in dungeon-like rooms, the surgical removal of dogs' vocal chords because the lab director was disturbed by their cries and workers' accounts of a live kitten being washed down a drain.

Iams ceased research at that facility and no longer contracts with it, according to P&G spokeswoman Linda Ulrey.

"We launched an investigation as soon as PETA made their allegations known," Ulrey says. "And while the facility meets government standards, it doesn't meet the standards set by Iams. We expect contractor facilities to live up to the standards of an Iams facility. A contractor is no different than an Iams facility."

Iams' research policy says the company will "ensure the humane treatment of cats and dogs and provide for animal well being, socialization and husbandry in a manner that is equivalent to nutritional or medical studies acceptable on people."

But Ezell claims that Iams has lied for two years about its enrichment program, which claims to test in a way more similar to human testing.

"Our investigator fought for six months for a cheap rubber toy to be put in the animals' cages," she says.

The investigator also reported that 27 dogs were destroyed while others died of untreated illnesses.

When Iams representatives toured the facility, the PETA investigator reported they had to leave the building due to the sweltering heat inside.

"The facility had no temperature control inside," Ezell says.

PETA filed a complaint in June with the Federal Trade Commission, accusing Iams and P&G of making false claims on their Web site that care for the dogs and cats used in their research exceeds industry standards.

Another concern of PETA is the claims of a whistleblower who worked at an Iams-contracted facility in Vienna, Austria, where dogs were allegedly kicked and beaten and went mad from living in a small cell for seven years.

P&G denies the accusation.

"We have never conducted research at that facility," Ulrey says. "We were conducting in-home clinical trials involving animals with already existing medical conditions. This is what PETA has advocated in the past."

That is exactly what Mary Beth Sweetland, senior vice president of PETA's Research and Investigation Department, is still advocating.

"Iams has hurt and killed dogs and cats in real-life tests while feeding its customers a fiction about caring for animals," she says. "New dog food needs to be tested at home, not on caged, lonely prisoner dogs in a laboratory hidden from the public."

Ulrey defends the company's record.

"Our standards exceed government standards," she says.

But PETA remains unmoved.

"Our campaign won't end until Iams does the right thing and ends these needless research methods," Ezell says.

After the protest last week, P&G employees sprayed the red soaked sidewalk and sign with a pressure hose; in a matter of minutes, the stains were gone. ©