Dogs around the world are being needlessly tested in preclinical
trials for human drugs, claims a study that has found that the
predictive success of testing on dogs is often little better than
The Kennel Club Charitable Trust donated £10,000 in 2007 to help
fund the study by FRAME and the BUAV, which has re-analysed past
research into the use of dogs in drug testing. The study has found
that canines are an unreliable indicator of whether substances will
be safe for humans, yet in Europe and the USA approximately 90,000
dogs are used annually.
FRAME and the BUAV have undertaken the most comprehensive
analysis to date of the predictive value of the dog as a non-human
animal model, for toxicity testing in humans. The study analysed
data from 2,366 publicly-available toxicological studies
that used dogs and asked whether the use of dogs contributes
significant weight to the evidence for or against dog studies
predicting the toxicity of a given compound in humans. The findings
show that canine models are highly inconsistent predictors of toxic
responses in humans.
An estimated 92 to 94 percent of drugs that pass preclinical
tests fail in human clinical trials, and around half of those that
do pass are later withdrawn or relabelled because of adverse
effects not predicted by animal tests. The failure rate is costly,
both to the pharmaceutical industry and in terms of human safety
and animal welfare.
Legislation around the world currently requires experiments on
animals prior to clinical trials taking place on humans to ensure
that drugs are safe. In Europe and the USA, two species are
required and in 80 percent of studies, a dog is the second species
chosen for the testing.
Mike Townsend, Chairman of the Kennel Club Charitable Trust
said: "These findings cannot be ignored, they raise numerous
questions about the use of dogs in drug toxicity testing. Tens of
thousands of dogs are subject to drug testing every year, but with
a failure rate in human trials estimated to be more than 90 percent
it is clear that these tests are not achieving what is expected or
required and are putting dogs through extremely stressful
The Kennel Club Charitable Trust, FRAME and the BUAV hope these
findings will encourage the pharmaceutical industry and other
stakeholders to engage fully in constructive discussion and debate
and to increase the search for more reliable testing methods not
involving the use of animals.
FRAME Life President Professor Michael Balls, and Dr Jarrod
Bailey and Michelle Thew from the BUAV have produced a paper
following the study which will be published in FRAME's scientific
journal ATLA (Alternatives to Laboratory Animals).
The paper states that: "A comprehensive suite of more reliable
alternative methods is now available. Combined with considerable
public concern over the use of dogs in science, the high ethical
costs of doing so, given the sensitive nature of dogs and the
expressed desire for the use of dogs as a second species in drug
testing to have a scientific, rather than a habitual basis, we
conclude that preclinical testing of pharmaceuticals in dogs cannot
currently be justified on scientific or ethical grounds."