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Dr. Mehmet Oz, the 2022 Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, campaigns in Malvern, Pa., on Oct. 15, 2022. (AP) Dr. Mehmet Oz, the 2022 Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, campaigns in Malvern, Pa., on Oct. 15, 2022. (AP)

Dr. Mehmet Oz, the 2022 Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, campaigns in Malvern, Pa., on Oct. 15, 2022. (AP)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher October 19, 2022

Fact-checking Democrats’ claim about dog deaths in Mehmet Oz’s heart research lab

If Your Time is short

  • Dr. Mehmet Oz’s campaign does not dispute a report that more than 300 dogs were euthanized in a heart research lab he supervised.

  • We did not find evidence of widespread pain and suffering among the dogs in the Columbia University lab.

  • The ad’s focus on a dog known as 6313 is misleading. An internal investigation by Columbia said “appropriate veterinary care” was given to this animal.

An ad from a Democratic super PAC accuses Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Republican nominee in Pennsylvania’s pivotal U.S. Senate race, of animal cruelty.

The 30-second spot is from Senate Majority PAC, which is supporting the Democratic nominee, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. The Nov. 8 contest, which rates as a toss-up, could decide which party controls the Senate, which is split 50-50.

The ad uses video clips, labeled as generic footage of animal testing, that show dogs in cages, and clips of Oz in a lab coat and what appear to be notes from a log.

"She wasn’t given a name, only a number — 6313," the narrator says. "For 29 days, she suffered in Mehmet Oz’s lab, leaking blood, not eating, struggling to breathe. Twenty-nine days of unimaginable pain and suffering, until Oz took her for the last experiment. Just one of 300 dogs killed in Oz’s lab. Mehmet Oz is unfit to be Pennsylvania’s senator."

The words "Dr. Oz’s killing over 300 dogs" appear on the screen, attributed to NBC News. But the words are not from a news report; they are part of a headline on an opinion column written by a professor that was published on NBC’s website.

Another Senate Majority PAC TV ad made the same claim against Oz. 

Oz’s campaign did not dispute a report that more than 300 dogs were euthanized during experiments between 1989 and 2010 in a Columbia University research lab Oz supervised. "The operations in the research lab were carried out by Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellows, and the animals were cared for by veterinarians," Oz campaign spokesperson Brittany Yanick said.

We did not find evidence that dogs were routinely subjected to "unimaginable pain and suffering." An internal investigation by Columbia found that the dog highlighted in the ad, known as 6313, received "adequate veterinary care."

News reports detail allegations and fine

The allegations date back 20 years to lab experiments at Columbia involving dogs and other animals that Oz, a heart surgeon, and other cardiac researchers supervised. 

News reports about the allegations against Oz were published in September and October.  

On Sept. 13, the Philadelphia news outlet Billy Penn reported that Oz was directing a research program at Columbia when it agreed in 2004 to a settlement with the U.S. Agriculture Department to resolve animal abuse claims. 

The three-page settlement agreement, which did not mention Oz, fined Columbia $2,000. 

The agreement was based on an internal investigation by Columbia that was spurred by allegations from a whistleblower in the lab, Catherine Dell’Orto. 

Dell’Orto told PolitiFact she does not know whether the 300 figure is accurate, but that the number of dogs euthanized does not signal animal abuse. 

Dell’Orto said Oz was responsible for the tests conducted in his lab. She said dogs suffering pain is part of lab testing, but that the lab Oz oversaw did not design tests to limit suffering and caused suffering by waiting unnecessarily long to euthanize some dogs.

Dell’Orto told Billy Penn the experiments were meant to "model human cardiac failure" and to assess treatments. 

Logs showed that puppies were not properly sedated before being euthanized and that an outdated euthanasia solution was used. Also, paperwork did not show that a dog exercise plan was approved by the attending veterinarian.

Oz’s campaign provided to PolitiFact the 22-page internal investigation report from Columbia, which covered Oz and other researchers. The report said that under Oz’s supervision,"appropriate veterinary care" was given to dog 6313, and that "inadequate or questionable veterinary care" was given to two other dogs. The report said lab records did not say why the two other dogs were kept alive — one for two days and the other for nearly a month — after being paralyzed. 

The references in the ad to dog 6313 leaking blood and struggling to breathe were from a summary published by the advocacy group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Billy Penn reported that before the settlement, PETA had complained of abuse of baboons and dogs at Columbia after being contacted by Dell’Orto.

In October, the news and cultural commentary website Jezebel reported that, based on studies in academic journals Oz published  from 1989 to 2010, experiments Oz supervised resulted in the deaths of at least 329 dogs. 

Oz’s campaign said Oz "never abused any animals" and noted that the whistleblower said Oz was not involved in euthanizing dogs.

Our ruling

Senate Majority PAC said a dog endured "unimaginable pain and suffering" during heart research experiments, "just one of 300 killed in (Dr. Mehmet) Oz’s lab." 

The ad’s focus on a dog known as 6313 is misleading. An internal investigation by Columbia University said "appropriate veterinary care" was given to this animal, which suffered loss of blood and difficulty breathing. The investigation said lab records did not say why two other dogs in Oz’s experiments were kept alive, one for two days and one for three weeks, after being paralyzed. 

On the bigger issue of dog deaths, Oz’s campaign did not dispute a published report that more than 300 dogs were euthanized during experiments in a Columbia research lab Oz supervised from 1989 to 2010. The campaign said other researchers conducted the tests and provided veterinary care in the lab.

The ad’s claim is partially accurate but leaves out important details. We rate it Half True.

Our Sources

Twitter, Jacob Rubashkin tweet, Oct. 11, 2022 

Email, Senate Majority PAC spokesperson Veronica Yoo, Oct. 14, 2022

Email, Mehmet Oz campaign spokesperson Brittany Yanick, Oct. 14, 2022

Interview, Catherine Dell’Orto, Oct. 17, 2022

Columbia University, letter to U.S. Agriculture Department, April 22, 2003

Politico, "New ads attack Mehmet Oz for animal abuse," Oct. 12, 2022

Fox News, "Dem super PAC targets Oz with attack ads based on 'puppy killer' claims," Oct. 12, 2022

CNN, "Top Democratic super PAC to air ads on animal cruelty accusations against Oz," Oct. 11, 2022

BillyPenn, "The facts about the animal abuse allegations surrounding Senate candidate Mehmet Oz," Sept. 13, 2022

Internet Archive, U.S. Agriculture Department-Columbia University settlement agreement, May 12, 2004

Internet Archive, PETA "Oz Dog # 6313" post, accessed Oct. 16, 2022 

Jezebel, "Dr. Oz’s Scientific Experiments Killed Over 300 Dogs, Entire Litter of Puppies," Oct. 3, 2022

Internet Archive, PETA letter to U.S. Agriculture Department, Nov. 30, 2004

Philadelphia Inquirer, "Mehmet Oz is facing accusations of animal abuse tied to his medical research. Here’s what you need to know," updated Oct. 4, 2022 

NBC News, "We need to ban animal testing. Dr. Oz’s killing over 300 dogs is a perfect example of why," Oct. 3, 2022

People, "Fact Check: Was Dr. Oz Responsible for Cruelly Experimenting on Dogs?", Oct. 4, 2022

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Tom Kertscher

Fact-checking Democrats’ claim about dog deaths in Mehmet Oz’s heart research lab

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