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Chris Ford | June 22, 2005

PETA has uncovered disturbing evidence that two top-level officials of the Phoenix-based stun-gun manufacturer Taser International have violated the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) by conducting illegal experiments on animals. PETA is asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to investigate the charges and, if they are confirmed, to prosecute those responsible.

Taser Research and Development Vice President Max Nerheim testified in a sworn deposition in a case in Arizona Superior Court last month that he and Taser International’s CEO, Rick Smith, shocked live pigs with Taser stun guns in "secret" tests on two separate occasions in 2002. Mr. Nerheim stated that the first occurrence took place during the fall of 2002 in his home garage and that the second took place several months later at an unnamed "horse facility" in Phoenix. In both cases, the pigs were repeatedly stunned with electric currents over several days. PETA believes that these tests may violate the AWA, since it appears that no approval was obtained from the USDA to conduct the experiments.

The findings come as PETA is calling on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to withdraw its funding of Taser experiments on pigs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW), where UW professor John Webster reportedly plans to shock anesthetized, cocaine-dosed pigs with increasing bursts of current until they suffer arrhythmia. The DOJ has given Webster $500,000 to shock the pigs in an effort to determine whether or not Tasers are safe to use on humans, even though Tasers have already been extensively tested on animals. The weapons have been linked to more than 100 deaths in the U.S. and Canada and the injuries of several police officers. Because the weapons are already in widespread use, clinical studies on Taser victims can provide relevant medical information.

"Shocking pigs in laboratories to test weaponry is bad enough—doing it under dubious circumstances in a garage is appalling," says Mary Beth Sweetland, director of PETA’s Research & Investigations Department. "No matter where they do it, shocking pigs isn’t going to prove anything about the safety—or potential dangers—of Taser weapons."

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