The study was published online in April, but the fallout is hitting now: University of Missouri-Columbia researchers are trying to identify "painless or non-invasive treatments for corneal injuries," and devised a pilot study using six beagles to that end. The researchers wanted to study the effects of topical hyaluronic acid on corneal ulcers; under sedation, the dogs' left corneas were wounded (the New York Daily News reports this blinded them in that eye), with half the group then acting as control and half administered the acid. Per the study, posted by the Journal of Veterinary Opthamology, "No statistical differences ... were found between groups at any tested time point." At its conclusion, the dogs were put down. The Beagle Freedom Project is up in arms over what it says was a flawed study from the outset.
Beagle Freedom Project lawyer Dan Kolde tells the Riverfront Times the researchers acknowledged in the study itself that 12 dogs were needed per group to "detect a clinically significant difference in healing rates." But using 24 dogs for the pilot study wasn't feasible so they went ahead with six. Had the acid worked, the study would have been written off due to population size, the Beagle Freedom Project maintains. At its completion, the animals were killed and their eyes removed and filed; the dog advocates say the animals should have been turned over for adoption. A rep for the university says in a statement, "Since dogs share similar eye characteristics with people, they are ideal candidates for corneal studies ... The animals were treated humanely and every effort was made to ensure dogs were as comfortable as possible." (This curious dog ate super glue, got a great souvenir.)