DAVIS, Calif. — UC Davis, under attack by animal rights groups, Monday defended its use of dogs and cats for research and training as the only way students can learn and cures can be found for diseases.
"You can only learn surgery by doing surgery," said Dr. George Cardinet, assistant dean of the veterinary school.
The Davis campus has California's only veterinary school, and, its officials boast, the facility is the best in the country.
Under pressure from animal rights activists, the sheriff of nearby Yolo County last month ordered the county's pound to stop selling animals to the university.
In addition, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors will hold a hearing today on whether to cut off the supply of dogs and cats from its much larger pound.
At a news conference Monday, Cardinet brought along his 26-year-old daughter, Colette, who he said had once been unable to speak or see because of a muscle disorder.
She is cured, he said, because of surgery made possible by animal research.
If Sacramento County stops selling its pound animals, university officials said, they would have to buy animals from breeders at five times the cost.
They said it costs $200 to buy a dog from the pound and make sure it is healthy enough for training or research.
"The greatest tragedy would be if animals had to be raised and killed in a laboratory, instead of animals that are, unfortunately, already scheduled to die," said Laurie Klein, a veterinary student who is chairman of the university's animal welfare committee.
Officials said the university buys more than 800 dogs and cats a year for student training and research. An agreement with the county requires that the animals be anesthetized when a surgical procedure is performed, and only one procedure can be performed on an animal.
Officials said the animals never wake up from surgery.
The county, they said, sells animals that are scheduled to be destroyed on the day of the sale.
One of the animal rights groups, Animal Allies, has accused the university of violating its agreement with the county. The university has issued a detailed denial of the group's charges.
Dr. Edward Rhode, veterinary school dean, said animals are treated in a humane manner required by federal and state law and university policy.
The Davis campus has been a frequent target of animal rights protesters in recent years.
Authorities blamed animal rights militants for an April, 1987, fire that officials say caused $4.5 million in damage to a veterinary research building.