Why Are Dogs Used ? – “Either the animal is not like us, in which case there is no reason for performing the experiment; or else the animal is like us, in which case we ought not to perform an experiment on the animal which would be considered outrageous if performed on one of us.”
Professor Peter Singer
There are very few valid scientific reasons for experimenting on dogs.
The data gathered from dog research, like all animal experiments, is not automatically relevant, reliable or even necessary.
There is no special similarity between the way drugs behave in dogs and in humans, and indeed dog test results can often be extremely misleading when compared with human test results.
For example, dogs have higher enzyme activity than humans for six important liver enzymes, but lower activity compared to humans for four other liver enzymes.
Dogs are also shown to be hypersensitive to cardiotoxicity, which can complicate interpretation of cardiovascular studies.
Such species differences are absolutely vital when considering how drugs and compounds are metabolised (processed by the body), and the doubt they cast over the inherent reliability of dog and other animal studies to the human model, cannot be dismissed.
A recent report by the Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments (FRAME) & the RSPCA revealed that, out of 60 published reports by drug companies, in almost all cases (92%) the use of dogs did not provide any additional, relevant information whatsoever.
The authors concluded that dogs are currently being used without proper or compelling scientific justification.
So why then do dogs continue to be used in such high numbers?
The real reason is because the size and nature of the dogs used offers more practical than scientific benefits to the researchers and laboratory technicians.
Dogs, particularly beagles, have become a convenient ‘experimental tool’ for researchers mainly because of their manageable body size and placid nature.
From a practical viewpoint, they are easy to handle and manoeuvre during procedures such as blood sampling or drug infusion.
And being gentle creatures who crave human contact, particularly in the stark and loveless world of the laboratory dog unit, they can be easier to subdue and control during experiments than some other animals.
In fact, far from there being any robust scientific reason behind the use of dogs, particularly in toxicology, their routine use came about almost by default.
Calls by regulatory authorities in the 1960s for the use of a rodent and a non-rodent species in toxicity experiments led to the start of dogs being used in large numbers.
This was soon followed by the growth of an industry purpose-breeding dogs for vivisection, which could supply these animals to laboratories on demand.
The use of the dog as the requisite second ‘non-rodent species’ for such tests, despite no regulatory requirements for the use of this specific species, has resulted in a worldwide reluctance by manufacturers and contract laboratories to seek alternatives.
Because dogs have been used for so many years, product manufacturers claim that regulatory authorities would question the use of anything else in their submitted test data, resulting in delays in product registration and cost implications.
A significant amount of the safety and toxicity tests using dogs conducted by British contract testing companies such as Huntingdon Life Sciences and Quintiles, is for overseas clients.
In order to satisfy regulatory authorities in countries such as Japan and the United States, these overseas companies may insist on longer-term experiments involving greater numbers of dogs than would be required under UK or EU legislation.
So to save time, money and to prevent the regulators from delaying product registration, multi-national drug firms, household product manufacturers and chemical companies continue to demand the use of dogs despite a lack of scientific justification.…