No animal deserves to spend their life in a cage, but sadly, that’s the reality for countless animals that are living in puppy mills and other commercial breeding facilities. We’re well aware of the connection between these horrific places and the pet stores that sell puppies, and advocates have been successful in efforts like retail bans that will eventually help bring this cruel industry to an end. But pet store puppies and their parents aren’t the only victims of the commercial breeding industry. Across the world, animals are being bred for use in scientific research, experimentation, and classroom education — and sadly, for these animals, the suffering doesn’t end once they leave the breeding facility.
In 2016, there were 820,812 animals used in U.S. research labs, according to USDA records obtained by Last Chance for Animals. Of that number, roughly 60,979 were dogs. These numbers are staggering, but they don’t exactly paint the entire picture. Research facilities aren’t required to report on the number of mice, fish, or reptiles used in experiments because those animals aren’t covered under the Animal Welfare Act, so in reality, these numbers are actually quite higher.
For decades, research facilities obtained their animals from breeders as well as USDA licensed, “random source” Class B dealers that obtained dogs, cats, and other animals from people called “bunchers,” who would steal pets from yards or get them from “free to good home” ads, auctions, and shelters. The “bunchers” would then sell the animals to the dealers, who in turn sold them directly to the research facilities.
A 2013 undercover investigation conducted by the Humane Society of the United States, revealed that dogs acquired from a “random source” Class B dealer named Kenneth Schroder were being used in painful dental implant experiments at Georgia Regents University. The USDA filed a complaint against Schroder for violating the Animal Welfare Act and illegally obtaining dogs, and eventually, his USDA license was revoked.
Legislative efforts helped ban the licensing of Class B dealers that “random source” dogs, but sadly, it doesn’t ban the practice of breeding dogs and other animals specifically for use in scientific research and educational purposes.
Breeding Companion Animals for Use in Research
Beagle Freedom Project/Facebook
According to Beagle Freedom Project, there are 383 labs in the U.S. that are using dogs for research. The breeders who sell to research labs are required to be licensed by the USDA, and they operate in the same manner as those who mass produce puppies for pet stores and online sales. The only difference is, these animals are “purpose-bred” solely for use in research, and many specialize in specific breeds, with the most common being beagles because of their size and docile nature.
And while facilities breeding animals for scientific use might not be as prevalent as those aimed at breeding animals to be sold as pets, the size of the facilities and conditions the animals are forced to live in are just the same.
One US-based animal supplier, Marshall BioResources has an international presence and uses several facilities to breed beagles, mixed-breed dogs, ferrets, pigs, mice, and guinea pigs for biomedical research. According to Cruelty Free International, a cruelty complaint against their breeding facility in Italy led to the rescue of over 3,000 dogs. The authorities also shut down the facility and convicted some of their executives of animal abuse. A few years later, the company closed the breeding facility because they thought Italy’s animal welfare laws were “too restrictive.”
Several Different Species Are Being Exploited
The thought of a dog or cat being used for research purposes is heartbreaking, but they aren’t the only species that suffer. Small mammals like rabbits, ferrets, mice, hamsters, rats, and guinea pigs are also mass-bred in commercial facilities for use in research.
One undercover investigation of a Pennsylvania-based breeder that sells ferrets to research labs and pet stores found evidence of horrific animal abuse. The ferrets were crammed into small cages that prevented them from exhibiting their natural burrowing behaviors, and they often suffered from lack of food, water, and proper veterinary care. The facility, which was fined $44,000 by the federal government, was said to sell over 6,000 ferrets a year for research purposes.
These stories are just two examples of commercial facilities defying the law and causing animal suffering. And while some facilities may be clean and claim to provide socialization and enrichment for the animals they’re breeding, the fact remains that they are mass breeding animals as a “product” to be sold for profit. And the animals will be forced to endure a life of fear, pain, and suffering until they’re no longer of use to the research facilities.
Helping Laboratory Animals and Ending Animal Testing
Countless animals are used in pharmaceutical and medical testing, but they also suffer for the testing of cosmetics and household products. These animals spend their lives confined to cages, living in fear as they’re forced to endure painful experiments, sometimes without any pain medication. And those who survive the experiments are typically killed as soon as the research is complete. Change is slowly happening as new technology provides humane alternatives, but a lot of work still needs to be done to end the suffering.
You can help stop the cruelty by only using cruelty-free products and by sharing the message about the plight of animals used for testing. You can also support initiatives to offer alternatives to animal testing at schools and universities, and by donating to organizations that are leading those efforts.
There are also legislative initiatives like the Beagle Freedom Bill, which requires laboratories to release dogs and cats for adoption after experiments are over instead of euthanizing them. The animals are then adopted into loving homes, where they’re finally given the opportunity to live as a cherished pet instead of a test subject.
Lead image source: Beagle Freedom Project/Facebook