The piece below is in response to WBZ-TV's article "Dogs Used For Medical Research May Never Go Outside." Read original article here or below.
Although the I-Team attempted to shed light on a deeply concerning issue to the American public – the use of dogs in research and testing – the pro and con remarks continued the same outdated rhetoric.
The piece overlooked the advanced and humane alternatives available to modern science, and the dismal record of any real benefit the use of animals holds for human health. There were glaring examples of omitted facts that should have been mentioned. Such as (according to the Federal Drug Administration) 92% of drugs tested on animals (including dogs) fail in clinical trials with humans. And, of the small percentage that do pass, more than 50% are later recalled because of serious, even deadly, side effects that were not predicted by animal studies. I can provide volumes of data that expose the senseless use of non-human species to predict what will occur in humans. Data showing that results obtained from animals is of limited value, has no relevance to human health, or worse, may ultimately lead to faulty conclusions that cause harmful delays, death, and dangerous misinterpretations for human health.
I would openly debate the Massachusetts Society for Medical Research (MSMR) regarding the here and now necessity and past purported benefits of animal use. I suspect their arguments are based not on actual data but on lobbying interests and public relations efforts for the profits of corporations like Charles River Labs. Animal suppliers and equipment manufacturers have a vested interest worth billions of dollars. It is in their financial interest to perpetuate the myth that animals are needed.
Modern scientific alternatives exist in vast areas of current animal use. In other areas, the worth and rigor of the research itself must be questioned. The U.S. remains, in large part, primarily focused on the impact to business. Therefore, we continue to lag behind the scientifically and ethically advanced world. For example, the European Union (E.U.) banned the use of animals in cosmetic testing with only positive implications for the safety of products. However, U.S. researchers and their lobbyists persist in debating the feasibility and benefit of animal replacement. Only last year certain legislators were wise enough to act on the side of true human safety and humane ethics by introducing the Humane Cosmetics Act (HCA), a bill that would end cosmetic testing on animals in the U.S.
There is no debate as to how to move science forward with humane and scientifically superior alternatives. And there is no debate as to how much animals in labs suffer. The minimal animal welfare laws MSMR refers to in the video pale in comparison to the poisoning, drug-affiliated side effects, mutilations, unnecessary surgeries, and legions of other atrocities committed every day on animals in labs. If you care about human health, dogs, and all animals, work with us to end animal use in research. Help us bring the U.S. (only 17th in world health and life expectancy despite being #1 in animal research) into an enlightened era of biomedical research and health advances. The New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS) is fully prepared with ever-growing scientific FACTS to take this on – ending the use of animals once and for all – for the benefit of both animals and humans.
Theodora Capaldo, EdD
I-Team: Dogs Used For Medical Research May Never Go Outside
Massachusetts is a hub of medical research and much of that science relies on animal testing, including the use of dogs. There is a great deal of secrecy around how these dogs live and what they are used for. The I-Team discovered many will never see the outside of a laboratory.
An energetic beagle named Jack is one of the lucky ones. He was adopted by the Simons family of Sharon. “We just know he came from a lab in Cambridge,” said Debra Simons. “They told us they were allowed out of the cage onto a concrete area once a week,” she said.
Jack is one of the few who will live out his golden years with a loving family. Thousands of other dogs used in medical research across the country are euthanized. The I-Team sorted through USDA records. We found 1299 dogs being used right now in research at 12 Massachusetts institutions; many are beagles like Jack, chosen for their size and disposition.
The largest Massachusetts facility is Charles River Labs. The Wilmington company has 750 dogs. Other large companies, veterinary schools and hospitals also report using dogs in research. The I-Team reached out to several of them. Not one would show us the conditions in which the dogs live and no one agreed to an on-camera interview.
We asked Alan Dittrich, of the Massachusetts Society for Medical Research why these companies are so secretive. “I think the secrecy really has to do with intimidation. There’s been a long campaign against animal research and animal researchers,” he said. Dittrich also told us that his group’s members follow animal welfare rules in their treatment of the dogs. “They play. They do not live their entire lives in cages. They are not subjected to great isolation or solitariness.”
But according to Kathleen Conlee of the Humane Society of The United States, dogs in out-of-state labs don’t have it so well. She told the I-Team animal welfare groups found dogs foaming at the mouth and subjected to painful experiments. “We have done a couple of undercover investigations at laboratories and inevitably we find violations of these minimal standards, which obviously raises significant concerns,” she said.
According to Conlee’s organization, federal animal welfare standards are loosely enforced with inspections occurring only once per year. They argue advances in technology have made this research almost unnecessary. “We recognize that advances have been made using animals, but with the technology boom today, I think we are at a turning point where we can seriously start looking at replacing these animals,” she said.
Dittrich believes the issue is not that simple. “There’s not one who would not jump to a validated alternative if it existed, but animals provide us with the best opportunity to see how a new procedure, a new medicine, a new medical device may work when it comes to humans,” he said.
In the meantime, adoption groups work to save these animals from euthanasia, getting them out of the labs and into the backyards of families like the Simons. “When they’re finished, why not allow them to have a life. I don’t understand it,” Debra Simons said.
At least one local lab says they do put 100% of their dogs up for adoption. But most would not give us specifics. Charles River Labs sent us a statement saying their dogs are essential to life-saving treatments and that they exceed animal welfare standards.