The Plan for Progress: Dogs in Research

As we complete our 90th year of victories on behalf of animals, NAVS is looking toward the future of humane, human-relevant science. To that end, we are undertaking an ambitious, multi-faceted action plan aimed at dramatically furthering our mission to end the exploitation of animals used in science. NAVS’ Plan for Progress addresses three issues central to our mission: nonhuman primates in research, dogs in research and classroom dissection. This week we will examine dogs in research.

We call them “man’s best friend,” yet dogs are still consistently used in painful experiments and tests—often because of their easy bond with humans. It’s one of the most heartbreaking examples of the cruel way animals are exploited in the name of science, and a true betrayal of the relationship we’ve fostered with these animals over millennia. Although the number of dogs used in research has declined greatly since their peak use in the late 1970s, the most current USDA statistics show that nearly 60,000 dogs were used for “research, testing, teaching, or experimentation” in 2018, and thousands more were held in captivity but not used. Many of the dogs were used to test drugs for safety and effectiveness—despite the fact that more than 90% of drugs that pass preclinical tests subsequently fail in human clinical trials. Using dogs as human models is not only cruel, it’s faulty science. To address this, NAVS is undertaking a campaign specifically dedicated to reducing the number of dogs used in invasive biomedical research, and, eventually, eliminating their use altogether. Much of the work being done with dogs is challenging and time-consuming to uncover (and becoming more so). However, numerous questions must still be answered, including exactly what types of tests the dogs are currently being used for, and what the goals of these tests are. Understanding the tests that involve the greatest use of dogs will help guide our decisions regarding identifying target areas for research into the development of alternative methods. It will also help us to identify areas of concentration for legislative and policy change efforts. Concurrent with these efforts into uncovering dog use data, we will also be working to identify and curtail violations of existing anti-cruelty laws and mandates by facilities that currently use dogs. Information gathered over the course of this program will also allow NAVS to actively pursue the advancement of alternatives aimed at the development of alternatives to the use of dogs in research.

Our Plan for Progress is ambitious, and our goals are lofty. But they are in the service of what is right—for humans and for animals. And together we are moving forward. Poll after poll shows that an increasing number of Americans disapprove of animal testing. Because of you, we are changing hearts and minds. And we are building a world where animals are respected and protected from cruel and unnecessary scientific experiments.
This story originally appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of Animal Action.