Animal Testing


Key Statistics Published by the Home Office, October 2015

  • 2,742 dogs were used in scientific procedures in 2014 in the UK.
  • 4,107 scientific procedures were conducted on dogs in 2014 in the UK. The overwhelming majority were performed primarily for human benefit.
  • Since 2007, 26,596 dogs have been used in 38,776 scientific procedures.

The problem

The Kennel Club is opposed to the use of dogs in animal experiments which are conducted for the primary benefit of humans, and has significant concerns over the use of dogs in regulatory toxicity testing. According to Home Office statistics 2,724 dogs were used in animal experiments in the UK in 2014. Some dogs were used in multiple scientific procedures, with a total of 4,107 procedures conducted on dogs in 2014.1

Just over 70% of the 4,107 scientific procedures involving dogs were carried out for regulatory tests in the development of medicinal products for human use, with less than 0.05% of all procedures identified as being required for the development of veterinary medicines.2 The remaining ~30% of procedures can be attributed to other forms of regulatory testing (13%), incorporating testing of pesticides etc, and fundamental research aimed at improving human and/or animal health (16%).

Regulatory tests is an umbrella term which incorporates a number of different types of tests. In 2014 the majority of the regulatory tests involving dogs, and indeed over 50% of all procedures conducted on dogs were "repeated dose toxicity" tests.3 This form of testing is used to determine whether continuous exposure to a substance, i.e. a potential medicinal product, becomes poisonous over a prolonged period.4 The dogs may be injected with, or fed drugs and chemicals and then observed for signs of adverse (toxic) effects that can include vomiting, internal bleeding, organ damage, seizures, and death. These tests commonly last for several months, or longer, and at the end of these experiments the dogs are euthanased so that autopsies can take place. 567

Most commonly dogs are used as a second species in these regulatory tests, with rodents typically being the first species employed. The use of two species in these types of tests is a worldwide requirement. However, a 2013 study questioned the benefit of using dogs in these second species tests. The study, published in a peer reviewed scientific journal, analysed historical data from 2,366 drugs which had been approved for human use. It concluded "This analysis of the most comprehensive quantitative database of publicly-available animal toxicity studies yet compiled, suggests that dogs are highly inconsistent predictors of toxic responses in humans, and that the predictions they can provide are little better than those that could be obtained by chance ― or tossing a coin ― when considering whether or not a compound should proceed to testing in humans."8 In light of this research the Kennel Club would like to see an independent review of whether the use of dogs in second species testing is still justified or whether more suitable alternatives are available.

The Kennel Club view

The Kennel Club is strongly opposed to the use of dogs in chemical toxicology and drug safety evaluation conducted primarily for the benefit of humans. Whilst we acknowledge that testing may currently be required by national and international legislation, we believe animal testing should be kept to an absolute minimum and be used only when alternative testing is not possible.

The Kennel Club funds and supports the work of FRAME (Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments) to carry out research projects on the use of dogs in laboratories, with the aim of developing a scientific strategy to minimise, and eventually eliminate, the use of dogs in biomedical research and testing. In addition the Kennel Club Charitable Trust has provided project funding towards this aim.

Where animals continue to be used in animal experimentation, the Kennel Club strongly supports the principles of the 3Rs (Refinement, Reduction and Replacement), as the guiding principles which underpin the humane use of animals in scientific research:

  • Refinement: improving scientific procedures and husbandry to minimise potential pain and suffering and improve animal welfare in situations where the use of animals is unavoidable.
  • Reduction: improving test methods to enable researchers to obtain comparable levels of information from fewer animals or more information from the same number of animals.
  • Replacement: finding replacements to animal testing e.g. computer modelling.

In spite of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, which insists that no animal experiments should be conducted if there is a realistic alternative, evidence suggests more needs to be done to ensure animals are not used in testing unnecessarily.910 To help enable this more resources are required for the advancement of the 3Rs. Additionally improved standards in reporting of animal experiments are required, along with greater transparency of the use of animals in experiments to avoid unnecessary duplication of experiments.1112 While dogs continue to be used in animal experiments, it's essential that appropriately high standards of animal welfare are adhered to in all animal testing establishments and associated breeding facilities.13 14

Potential solutions

We believe the number of live experiments could be reduced and the welfare of laboratory dogs improved by:
1) The Government commissioning an independent review of whether the benefits derived from using dogs in second species toxicity tests justifies their use, and whether more suitable alternatives are available.
2) The Government delivering on its pledge to increase transparency of animal testing and remove the so called privacy clause (Section 24) from animal testing legislation, this is supported by both the scientific industry and animal welfare campaigners.15
3) A requirement for establishments, including breeding facilities, to have a policy to re-home dogs whenever possible and for accurate statistics on re-homing of laboratory animals to be published annually.
4) The Government working with the scientific sector and funding bodies to improve reporting of animal testing. Requiring the publication of all results from animal experiments (both positive and negative) to avoid unnecessary duplication, with allowances for the protection of genuinely commercially sensitive information.
5) Reviewing the welfare of dogs in laboratories including breeding, transportation, housing, nutrition, health, handling and euthanasia, to ensure that all efforts to reduce suffering are being implemented.
6) Increasing funding to develop alternatives to animal testing.

July 2016

2 ibid
3 ibid
5 ibid
8 Bailey, J.; Thew, M.; Balls, M. An analysis of the use of dogs in predicting human toxicology and drug safety. ALTA 2013, 41, 335-350


Related Topics

Animal Welfare
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