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Mayo Clinic stays mum when asked if dog research continues at Institute Hills

Are dogs being used for medical research and experimentation at Mayo Clinic's secretive Institute Hills facility? Maybe. Probably. They definitely were in the 1980s.

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All Knowing,

Does the Mayo Institute Hills facility still utilize dogs for research?

John Kruesel

Oh, John.

You never offer up a softball to the Answer Man, do you?

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As a long-time Rochesterite, you know that animal experimentation and the extremely secretive Institute Hills research facility are not topics that Mayo Clinic officials like to discuss in public, if they can help it.

“Mayo Clinic conducts research involving animals as part of a continuum of investigations to ensure potential medical treatments and therapies are safe and effective for patients. Animals are only used when necessary and every effort is taken to ensure their safety and well-being,” wrote Research Communications Manager Bob Nellis as a non-response to your question about using dogs for research at Rochester’s rural Institute Hills complex.

He didn't say no. We do know Mayo Clinic was using dogs for research at its 187-acre facility at 1800 Institute Road as recently as 2020, because the United States Department of Agriculture issued an official warning to the clinic over the death of a 9-month-old puppy in a research lab at the S.C. Johnson Research facility in Scottsdale, Ariz. Nellis pointed out that experiment is no longer active.

While Institute Hills is better known for its experiments involving pigs in recent years, research using dogs has been often documented as taking place there.

In 1988, a Mayo Clinic vet discovered a Golden Retriever had an identification tattoo. Goldie was then flown back to his owner Shirley Smith of Des Plaines, Ill. The theory of how a pet from the Chicago suburb would end in Mayo Clinic research lab was that a dog snatcher caught Goldie and sold him to Mayo.

Institute Hills Head Veterinarian Craig Frisk told reporters in 1988 that the facility would take in about 30 dogs a week to use for research into human diseases. Mayo Clinic was a bit more open about its research back then.

About 20 dogs reported as stolen from homes in LeRoy, Dexter and other nearby communities were recovered from Mayo Clinic’s Institute Hills in 1984. That story, which described Institute Hills as having 500 dogs penned up to use for research, was published by the nonprofit Animal Welfare Institute.

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