Dogs are loving and loyal companions, and to most people, they’re considered part of the family. As consumers, we spend billions on our pets annually, feeding them the best food we can afford, spoiling them with treats and buying them way too many presents. We even find ways to take them with us when we go on vacation. We’d do anything for them, including doing everything in our power to protect our best friends from harm.
Now imagine your loving pet — but instead of snuggling next to you on the couch in a comfy blanket, they’re sitting in a cold cage. They’re terrified and shrink into the corner as someone approaches them to once again poke at them, force them to consume toxic substances or subject them to unnecessary surgical procedures. You’d be livid if anyone tried to do this to you dog, right? Sadly, this is the reality for tens of thousands of dogs sitting in research laboratories. And these loving animals are no different than the beloved companions we welcome into our hearts and our homes.
No animal should ever be subjected to horrific testing in the name of science and product safety, but many are surprised to find out that dogs are used for testing. Every year, approximately 70,000 dogs are used in research laboratories, about 96 percent of which are beagles. Beagles are commonly used in testing because they are trusting and docile by nature. And while the number of dogs being used in laboratory testing has decreased by 71 percent since the 70s, the fact that animals are still being used as test subjects is not only outdated but unnecessary.
Where Do Laboratory Dogs Come From?
Sadly, there are facilities dedicated to breeding dogs solely for the purpose of selling them to animal testing laboratories. In the U.S., these breeding facilities, as well as the laboratories where the experiments take place, are regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture — but as with puppy and kitten mills, regulating these facilities doesn’t necessarily prevent animal suffering, or ensure their emotional well-being.
Research laboratories have also been known to get their dogs from animal shelters, either directly or through “Class B” dealers who obtain the dogs, then resell them to the labs. Thankfully, states like Minnesota have passed legislation making it illegal for unclaimed animals from shelters and municipal facilities — a practice known as “pound seizure” — to be sold to laboratories for use in testing.
How Are the Animals Used?
The life of a dog in a laboratory is one filled with pain and misery. They live their entire lives in cages, are subjected to horrific cruelty, and then euthanized at the end of the experiment. There are no trips to the dog park or time spent playing fetch. To researchers, these animals are nothing but a disposable by-product of their industry.
Dogs and other animals are used for a variety of experiments, including testing the toxicity of cosmetic or household products, practicing surgical procedures — and approximately 75 percent of dogs are used for drug tests conducted by the pharmaceutical industry. During these painful tests, animals are forced to inhale toxic chemicals, and are poisoned, starved, and blinded. Medical and veterinary schools, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and even the military participate in animal testing. The dogs suffer not only physically, but psychologically.
There are laws and regulations in the United States setting “standards” for the care of animals in testing facilities and breeding facilities, but they don’t stop animals from actually being tested on. These tests are completely unnecessary, especially when you consider the development of alternative testing methods, and that 92 percent of the drugs determined to be successful in animal trials fail during human trials.
Is Anything Being Done to Stop It?
Organizations like the Beagle Freedom Project are working to educate the public about the prevalence of animal testing and provide resources for alternatives to products. They also work to enact legislation like the Beagle Freedom Bill, which helps animals be released to rescue organizations after the experiments are complete, instead of being euthanized.
Bans on animal testing for cosmetic purposes in Europe and other countries is a big first step in the fight against these cruel and unnecessary testing practices, and new technology is slowly paving the way to a world where animals are no longer test subjects.
What You Can Do
- Mice, rabbits, dogs, pigs and countless other species of animals are subjected to cruelty in animal testing laboratories. Use the power of your wallet to take a stand against animal testing. There are cruelty-free alternatives for just about everything you can imagine, from toothpaste to household cleaners. You can make your own personal care products or check out websites like Leaping Bunny to find cruelty-free products for your home.
- Educate your friends and family. People hate to hear about animal suffering, but making people aware of the truth is crucial in the battle against animal testing.
- Support legislation that fights against animal testing and helps protect animals living in laboratories.
All images source: Beagle Freedom Project/Facebook