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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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June 8, 2024

Texas A&M sued over withheld animal research records

The Beagle Freedom Project, a non-profit organization based in California, is suing Texas A&M on the grounds the university violated the Texas Public Information Act by not releasing information about dogs in public-funded experiments, according to a Beagle Freedom Project press release. The plaintiffs want this information to be available to the public, arguing taxpayers have the right to know how their money is being used.
“The school obstructed these lawful requests ‘likely in order to shield itself from public scrutiny over the types of taxpayer funded testing it is conducting on these animals. To avoid producing information, Texas A&M withheld many of the documents under a blanket claim of veterinarian/client privilege,’” the press release states.
The Beagle Freedom Project, BFP, stated in the Writ of Mandamus that starting in April, formal requests were written to Texas A&M asking for records of individual dogs.
The defendant, Claudene Marshall, the custodian of records at Texas A&M, responded by asking for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s opinion on the matter. Paxton sided with A&M’s decision to withhold the information.
Article 24, under ‘Facts’ of the lawsuit, states “defendants claim that the information responsive to Plaintiffs’ requests are “‘exempt[] from disclosure pursuant to section 552.101 of the Texas Public Information Act, Government Code, Chapter 552… in conjunction with section 51.914(a) of the Texas Education Code and section 801.353 of the Texas Occupations Code.’”
Section 51.914(a) protects trade secrets while section 801.353 outlines the veterinarian/ client privilege.
The BFP press release stated the defendant “erroneously” cited veterinarian/client privilege protection as an attempt to hide what was happening to the dogs.
“This exemption was intended for family pets, not research animals purchased with taxpayer funds and owned by the schools,” the press release states.
The BFP focuses on rescuing beagles used in experiments and finding new homes for them. The organization has rescued dogs from all over the country and world. Finding homes for the dogs subjected to experiments was the purpose of requesting the information from A&M.
“BFP and several other plaintiffs originally filed open record requests to the school as a part of the charity’s ‘Identity Campaign,’ which seeks information on individual animals in labs in an effort to find possible candidates for post-experiment adoption,” the press release states. “Most public universities have complied with these lawful requests and disclosed requested information.”
Shannon Keith, president of the Beagle Freedom Project, said Texas A&M and the Attorney General don’t have the right to hide the information the taxpaying public paid for.
“Transparency is a dirty word in the animal testing world and our mission is to shine a bright light on what is being done to these dogs in the basements of schools like Texas A&M,” Keith said.
The declaratory judgment stated in the lawsuit requests the court to “declare that the veterinarian/patient privilege relied on by Defendants does not apply and that the information sought by Plaintiffs is not excepted from disclosure and not subject to any exception under the TPIA.”

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