Who Let the Dogs Out?

The beagle puppies used in Dr. Michael Berens' controversial brain tumor research project ("Screwing the Pooch," January 4) have been quietly adopted out.

Barrow Neurological Institute released the dogs from a Tucson kennel several weeks ago, even though representatives told New Times the dogs were unfit for adoption and would remain in use.

Jedd Nelson, the director of animal care at the Southern Arizona Veterans Administration Hospital, confirms all the dogs housed at his facility have been adopted.

So is the doggy drama over?

Not quite. Dr. Patricia Haight, a psychologist who led the protest campaign to free the dogs, says the beagles are suffering from posttraumatic stress. They chew furniture, fight and have "separation anxiety and night terrors," she says. And now Haight is worried that frustrated owners will take their newly liberated pets to the pound.

"We just are trying to let people know that there is support and homes available, if necessary," says Haight, who drove to Tucson to meet one of the adopting families.

One adopter, Carla Harris, complained to a Tucson television news program that her new beagle Patches is "just like a puppy that is chewing on everything except they have the strength of a full-grown dog."

Nelson says adopters signed a contract saying they would return the dogs to BNI if they had problems. Several hospital employees were among the adoptive parents, and Nelson says Haight's claims of behavior problems caused by lingering medical research trauma are "absolutely not true."

As part of Berens' research project, the puppies were injected with cancer cells in utero. Berens was criticized for euthanizing healthy dogs that did not develop cancer. Federal funding for his study will cease in April, and Berens has not reapplied for his grant. Though BNI won't say for certain, observers say the study is over.

Haight says she's having another BNI protest rally. Just in case.

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James Hibberd
Contact: James Hibberd