Animal Testing and Research Facts

Knowing that lab animals are treated respectfully, responsibly and as humanely as possible strengthens our understanding – as does separating the facts from the myths.

Do you know the real animal testing and research facts?

Here are the facts to counter some common misconceptions about animal testing and research.

Myth: Animals are not needed for medical research. They can be replaced with epidemiological studies, computer models and cell cultures.

Fact: Right now, there is no comprehensive substitute for animal testing and research. Certainly, computer models and cell cultures, as well as other adjunct research methods, reduce the number of animals used. But there is no way to completely replace animal testing and research because the pathway to fully duplicating a whole, living system does not yet exist. Cell cultures and computers are limited in what they can model.

Myth: Dogs, cats and monkeys are the most popular research animals.

Fact: About 95 percent of all lab animals in medical research are rats and mice bred specifically for the research. Some animal testing and research involves non-human primates, dogs, cats and pigs because they are the best models of certain diseases. Less than one half of one percent of animal research is conducted with these animals. Most animal testing and research is conducted with rats and mice that are bred specifically for research.

Myth: Lost or stolen pets are sold to labs.

Fact: Lab animals are bred specifically for research. There is absolutely no evidence to support the claim that dogs and cats are taken from homes and shelters and sold to laboratories. In fact, scientists neither need nor want to conduct research with pets.

Myth: There are no laws or regulations to protect lab animals.

Fact: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has set forth federal regulations governing the care and use of animals in biomedical research that are considered more extensive than those covering human research subjects. In the U.S., the Animal Welfare Act sets high standards of care for research animals with regard to their housing, feeding, cleanliness, ventilation, medical needs, enrichment, and socialization. It also requires the use of anesthesia or analgesic drugs for potentially painful procedures and during post- operative care. The U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) Act requires that all institutions receiving research funds from the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, or the Centers for Disease Control adhere to the standards set out in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. Under the PHS policy, institutions must follow detailed animal care recommendations and establish an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) to ensure that all animals are treated responsibly and humanely. Most importantly, research institutions are required — by law — to establish an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) to oversee their work with animals. IACUCs require researchers to justify their need for animals, select the most appropriate species, and study the fewest number of animals possible to answer a specific question.

Myth: Research animals are deliberately kept in pain.

Fact: No one is in favor of inhumane or irresponsible treatment of lab animals. Further, poor care results in unreliable research data. For results to be valid, animal subjects must be in good condition and appropriately healthy. Also, pain and distress are thought to have a negative impact on the immune system so researchers are careful to protect their animals from undue stress.

Myth: Stem cell research does not require animal models.

Fact: Promising medical treatments are on the horizon, thanks to the tremendous capabilities of stem cells, but stem cell treatments must first demonstrate safety and efficacy in animal models before they can be introduced in humans.

Myth: Animal testing and research only benefits people.

Fact: With the recent sequencing of genomes, in-depth research into animal physiology, and surgical advances, researchers are constantly being reminded that humans share many biological and physiological characteristics with animals. Practically all biomedical research with lab animals advances veterinary medicine as well as human medicine and helps pets and wildlife live longer, happier, and healthier lives. Dozens of diseases, from cancer to epilepsy, affect both animals and humans. Vaccines that treat humans benefit animals. Many other conditions are successfully treated, in both humans and animals, with antibiotics. Through research with animals these diseases and disorders are becoming more manageable and less fatal.

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