ANSWERS ABOUT PETS AND RESEARCH
1. Why promote the role of research in veterinary medicine?
Research is the foundation of all medical science, and animals are the foundation of this research. Medical progress, for human and animal health, requires research with animals because there is no complete replacement for a living system on which to conduct basic research. Animal studies provide invaluable and irreplaceable insights into human systems and for the study of animal health – there is no better model than the animal. When Americans learn that biomedical research involving animals improves animal health as well as human health, public understanding, and support for this vital research increases.
Practically every present-day protocol for the prevention, control, and cure of disease, and relief of pain is based on knowledge attained through research that involved lab animals. The best hope for developing new preventions, therapies, and cures for diseases including cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s is found in the promise of medical research that includes animal studies. Research with animals is also a legal obligation. Both the Nuremberg Code and the Helsinki Declaration of Helsinki outline provisions for research protocols to be conducted with animals, before humans.
2. How can a person who deeply cares for animals still support the research that includes animals?
3. What assurances exist that stolen or lost pets are not used in research?
4. Why can’t alternatives such as computer models and cell cultures replace animal research?
Computer models and cell cultures, as well as other adjunct research methods, are excellent avenues for reducing the number of animals used. These methods are used to screen and determine the toxic potential of a substance in the early stages of an investigation, thereby reducing the total number of research animals needed. The final test, however, has to be done in a whole, living system. Even the most sophisticated technology cannot mimic the complicated interactions among cells, tissues, and organs that occur in humans and animals. Scientists must understand these interactions before introducing a new treatment or substance into humans.
In addition, there are very strong economic incentives to replace animals with computers or other adjunct methods. Research animals are very expensive to acquire and care for and are only used because no alternatives currently exist. For the near future, however, these adjunct technologies will be used in conjunction with, not instead of, laboratory animals.
5. How can research results derived from animal testing be extrapolated to humans?
There are striking similarities between the physiological systems of humans and various species of animals. For example, much of what we know about the immune system has come from studies with mice, and much of what we know about the cardiovascular system has come from studies with dogs.
Research results from animals also provide the information necessary to design human trials that must be completed for legal approval of new devices, drugs or procedures. It is important to be able to gauge how a new drug or procedure will affect a whole biological system before using it on humans. This is critical for scientific as well as ethical reasons. Laboratory animals are an integral part of the research process. In fact, virtually every major medical advance of the last century is due, in part, to research with animals.
6. Why are increasing numbers of animals used in research?
FUN FACTS: TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE
Are you ready to find out how much you know about medical research, pet ownership, and animal studies? You can check your answer beneath each question on this page to see if you were correct. Good luck!
How many cats and dogs (total) live in American households?
2. The national investment in biomedical research, including federally-funded studies with animals, is expensive. But in the words of Mary Lasker, “If you think research is expensive, try disease.” What percentage of American healthcare costs do you think are incurred by scientific and medical research?
What percentage of American healthcare costs is allocated to scientific and medical research?