Each year, more than 58,000 dogs are used for experimentation in U.S. public and private research and testing facilities. Scientists may induce symptoms of serious conditions like heart disease in the animals, remove or damage some of their organs, fit them with equipment to impair normal bodily functions, force-feed drugs, pesticides, or other substances to them, to observe such harmful effects such as heart failure, liver disease, signs of cancer or even death. They are housed in barren steel cages, often alone, for their entire lives. Some dogs—an average of 660 each year—are deliberately denied the benefits of drugs or other palliative treatment to relieve their pain and distress. Following the conclusion of an experiment, the dogs are often killed to allow for examination or further testing of their organs.

Undercover investigation into Charles River Laboratories - Mattawan, MI. A hound used in an experiment sponsored by Above and Beyond NB, LLC is euthanized.
Undercover investigation into Charles River Laboratories – Mattawan, MI. A hound used in an experiment sponsored by Above and Beyond NB, LLC is euthanized. Credit: The HSUS

The moral and scientific dilemmas associated with the use of dogs in research and testing are clear, especially given the increasing availability of non-animal methods that can provide results that are faster, more accurate, and relevant to humans. Even, the number of dogs used in federally funded research or testing has not dropped appreciably over the past 20 years. The use of dogs in research and testing is cruel and outdated – and we shouldn’t tolerate such complacency.

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Source: HSUS

A previous HSUS undercover investigation showed beagles being poisoned with pesticides and drugs and killed at an animal testing lab in Michigan, ultimately leading to the cancelation of one experiment and the release of 32 dogs from the facility.

In a recently published white paper, we scrutinized projects using dogs funded by the federal National Institutes of Health and evaluated their ultimate impact. Our analysis revealed that between 2015 and 2019, over $200 million was awarded by NIH to 200 individual institutions for 303 separate projects using dogs as experimental models. And yet, there appear to be few, if any, appreciable benefits to humans.

What Needs to Be Done

We need a proactive approach to hasten the end of dog use in experiments, and we’re urging policymakers to pursue the following recommendations:

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  1. All federal agencies should follow the example of the Environmental Protection Agency and commit to a clear timeline for phasing out animal use, and the EPA under the Biden Administration should reaffirm its previous commitment to end reliance on mammalian testing by 2035.
  2. The Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, and its other centers, should undertake retrospective analyses of all dog studies to assess the continued need for dogs. This is an important first step in defining the areas in which additional non-animal methods may need to be further developed and properly set the stage for replacing dogs in toxicity testing.
  3. The Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine should support the development and use of microphysiological systems using dog cell lines as replacements for live dogs. Initially, data from organ chips using dog cells could be submitted alongside data obtained from the use of live dogs, with the intent of replacing data from testing on live dogs with chip data.
  4. The National Institutes of Health should:
    • Review the results of past and current NIH-funded projects using dogs to determine whether benefits to public health were realized.
    • Promote collaborative research between veterinary clinics and researchers to facilitate the use of companion dogs in clinical trials.
    • Apply strict criteria before funding or carrying out research on dogs.
    • Redirect funding toward the development and use of non-animal approaches.
    • Commit to a timetable to phase out the use of dogs in laboratories.
    • Prohibit the use of dogs for any category E procedures (those which may involve unrelieved pain and/or distress).
    • Improve the minimum welfare standards for dogs in laboratories.
  1. All U.S. states should enact laws prohibiting the use of dogs in research and testing that is not required by federal law and should mandate dogs from research facilities be placed for adoption rather than being euthanized. Thirteen states have already passed adoption laws.

What can you do to help?

Undercover investigation into Charles River Laboratories - Mattawan, MI. This is one of twenty-one beagles killed in a test of two substances that have been on the market for years. The two drugs were infused into the beagles' lung areas after they were surgically opened to expose the area. The study was sponsored by Paredox Therapeutics of Manchester, NH - a University of Vermont startup company.
Undercover investigation into Charles River Laboratories – Mattawan, MI. This is one of twenty-one beagles killed in a test of two substances that have been on the market for years. The two drugs were infused into the beagles’ lung areas after they were surgically opened to expose the area. The study was sponsored by Paredox Therapeutics of Manchester, NH – a University of Vermont startup company. Credit: The HSUS

No dog deserves to suffer in a laboratory. As we work to implement each of the proposals in our white paper and end all use of dogs in experiments, we need your support. Please sign our petition to federal agencies urging them to end dog testing as expeditiously as possible. And please reach out to your state elected officials and demand they take action to end research and testing on dogs not required by federal law, require the adoption of dogs currently used for experiments, and support the call for investments into testing methods that do not cause animal suffering.

The world is moving inexorably toward a future in which scientists use human cells and tissues, 3D printing, robots, computer modeling, and other sophisticated methods to carry out experiments. We should work to make sure that dogs are among the most immediate beneficiaries of this trend, and with your help, we can save the lives of thousands of dogs each year while securing superior scientific and medical benefits at the same time.

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