A bouncing beagle with big brown eyes went home with VTH employee Jackie Beatty as an early Christmas present last week.
The dog, Emma, was one of six participating in two non-invasive studies by veterinary cardiologist Dr. Kate Scollan. One study validated the use of 3-D echocardiographs to measure left ventricular volume in canine hearts and the other assessed blood levels of two common antiarrhythmics when given in combination.
After months of walking, bathing, and playing with Emma, Beatty was emotionally attached to her and wanted to adopt. “How can you not fall in love with that little beagle face,” she says. But until recently, adopting Emma would not have been easy to do.
Most universities own animals and have a set of policies and legal procedures that govern their transfer to new owners. Typically, at OSU, these transfers have been handled by the Surplus Property Office.
According to the watchdog Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC), OSU has a stellar record of ethical care for campus animals. In fact, they are one of only 19 land-grant universities to earn full campus accreditation from the AAALAC. Nevertheless, when some members of the public see animals for sale on the OSU Surplus Property website next to desks, computers, and automobiles, they become alarmed. “We are flooded with protest emails,” says Rae DeLay, Operations Manager for Surplus Property. “The public’s perception is that the animals are treated as commodities.” DeLay wanted to find a better way to transfer OSU animals to new owners while still following legal requirements for tracking and fairness. Enter Dr. Helen Diggs.
Diggs is Director of the Laboratory Animal Resources Center, a Professor at CVM and OSU’s attending veterinarian. As such, she is responsible for the ethical care of all the research and teaching animals on campus. She invited DeLay and representatives from the OSU Research Office, Lab Animal Resources Center, Legal Counsel, and the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee to meet and brainstorm alternative methods for transferring ownership of animals. The result is an Animal Placement Program that was adopted in late Spring 2012. The beagles and foxhounds used in the cardiac imaging study were the first animals to benefit from the program. Key to the success of the program is the partnership OSU has formed with animal shelters and rescue groups who have the expertise to find the best possible new owners for OSU animals. “It’s a win-win program,” says Diggs.
Dr. Scollan’s study ended in November and, under the direction of the Animal Placement Program, the dogs were sent to the Oregon Humane Society in Portland for adoption. Jackie Beatty immediately applied to adopt Emma and a few days later, drove to Portland to bring her home to Corvallis. “She is adjusting perfectly to home life. She loves the cats and other dogs,” says Beatty. “You would never know that last Tuesday was the first day she ever was in a house. We all love her.”