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This Is How Dogs Suffer When Used in Experiments

Almost 65,000 dogs are used in experimentation each year in U.S. laboratories, according to federal statistics. Many of them, mostly beagles, are subjected to painful, debilitating, and pointless tests. Federal law allows dogs to be imprisoned day after day in small steel cages, where their gentle and trusting nature is greeted not with kindness but with torment. They are viewed and treated as laboratory equipment, no different from a beaker or a test tube—a means to an end. Most are not even given names, only numbers, which are tattooed in their ear or elsewhere on their body, like a serial number on a consumer product. Nearly all will die or be killed within the confines of the laboratory.

Most people see dogs as beloved companion animals and family members. For centuries, we have intentionally bred them to be emotionally dependent on us. Many imagine that it must be illegal to experiment on and kill dogs.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Whole industries subject dogs to many kinds of painful and distressing experiments. Keep reading to learn more, or click the button below to start taking action to help dogs right now:

Examples of the Suffering Inflicted on Dogs in Experiments

  • Dogs are often used in toxicology studies, where they are repeatedly subjected to a crude and harmful procedure known as “gavage.”  They are force-fed an experimental chemical through a thick plastic tube shoved down their throat, so the substance can be pumped directly into their stomach. In some cases, the substance is injected directly into their bloodstream through a “port” implanted in their veins. Common test substances include experimental pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals, pesticides, and ingredients found in household products. The dogs are frequently killed at the end of the study. Many of these dogs’ bodies are dissected and their organs “harvested” at the end of the tests.

  • Dogs are deliberately made sick in order to study human diseases, such as cardiac and hormonal disorders. At Ohio State University, vivisector George Billman forced surgically mutilated dogs to run on a treadmill until they collapsed from a heart attack. They were then killed and the damage to their heart tissue studied.

  • In a violent experiment at the University of Pennsylvania, beagle puppies were intentionally bred to have a degenerative eye disease that would blind them. During the study, the 3-week-old beagles’ eyes were cut out, and then the puppies were killed.

Dog's Best Friend? Not Animal Experimenters

Dogs are used and abused in laboratories precisely because of their trusting nature. Beagles, especially, have become the animal experimentation industry’s dog of choice because they are naturally docile and a convenient size. Even when they’re being abused, they don’t bite. In a true perversion of decency and morality, their trust and gentleness is used by animal experimenters as an opportunity for exploitation. A multimillion-dollar global industry is devoted to breeding and selling dogs for experimentation.

How Dogs Are Acquired by Laboratories

Most dogs used in experiments are bred on beagle factory farms specifically for that purpose. Those who are deemed unsuitable for research are often “culled” (killed). Some laboratories, like Texas A&M University, have their own in-house breeding colonies of dogs, who are born and die there. A handful of animal shelters and pounds still sell dogs to laboratories. In Oklahoma and some municipalities, so-called “pound seizure” laws require shelters to sell animals to laboratories on demand.

PETA’s Fight to Keep Dogs out of Labs

PETA is on the vanguard of the fight to end experiments on dogs. In PETA’s proud 35+ year history, we have secured numerous victories, as well as setting precedents on this front, raising awareness of laboratory issues and saving countless dogs from torment and death.

  • In 1988, PETA conducted a year-long undercover investigation at Biosearch, a cosmetics and household product testing laboratory, uncovering more than 100 violations of federal and state anti-cruelty laws. Laboratory personnel nicknamed a young beagle “Doomed” and “Dead Meat.” She lived at Biosearch for six days before being used in a short-term intravenous glucose study. An offer to adopt her was rejected, and she was killed.

  • In 2007, PETA scientists persuaded the U.S. government to end year-long pesticide poisoning tests on dogs. In 2013 and 2016, similar victories were secured in the E.U. and Canada, respectively, following a PETA campaign—sparing hundreds of dogs the agony of being forced to eat pesticide-laced food or inhale pesticide fumes every day for a year before being killed and dissected. In 2018, the governments of Japan and South Korea also dropped the yearlong pesticide test.

  • In 2009, after nearly a month of intense PETA campaigning against horrific combat training exercises conducted by the Bolivian military—in which live dogs are shown in a video tied down, repeatedly stabbed, and screaming in agony—the Bolivian Ministry of Defense ended the killing by issuing the military’s first-ever animal protection regulation, which prohibited “all acts of violence, exploitation, [and] mistreatment that provokes the death of animals.”

  • In 2010, just one week after PETA released the results of its shocking eyewitness investigation into Professional Laboratory and Research Services and filed a complaint with the USDA, the North Carolina contract animal testing facility surrendered nearly 200 dogs as well as more than 50 cats and closed its doors. This is only the second time in U.S. history that a laboratory surrendered animals and shut down. The first? PETA’s landmark Silver Spring monkeys case.

  • Also in 2010, less than six months after PETA released its eyewitness investigation into laboratories at the University of Utah, Utah legislators voted overwhelmingly to amend its archaic pound seizure law so that government-run animal shelters would no longer be forced to sell dogs and cats to laboratories on demand. Since this reform, the number of dogs used for experimentation at the University of Utah has declined by 81%.

  • In 2017, PETA released its video exposé of Liberty Research Inc. in upstate New York. Liberty breeds and sells both dogs and cats for experimentation and also carries out testing on behalf of major drug companies such as Merck, Zoetis, and Bayer. PETA’s video footage and photographs document that dogs and cats were held in miserable, barren conditions; denied adequate veterinary care; and killed in slow, stressful ways. In one experiment, a worker drilled into the skulls of 30 dogs—some of whom hadn’t been adequately anesthetized and whimpered during the process—and injected distemper virus into their brains. As a result of PETA’s investigation and complaints, the USDA and the New York State Department of Health cited Liberty for 12 violations of state and federal law. The state of New York subsequently denied the laboratory’s attempt to renew its license, effectively ending its experiments on animals for more than three months. PETA is working to make the shut-down permanent.

  • In 2019, after working with a whistleblower, Louisiana State University ended its practice of obtaining live dogs from a nearby animal shelter for use in lethal anatomy courses and possibly other experimentation. At least 70 dogs were supplied for this purpose in 2018 alone. Many had been running at large and were impounded by animal control officers. It’s possible that their guardians never learned their true fate, since the shelter marked them as “adopted” or “released.”

  • In 2022, Texas A&M University confirmed that it would release the nine healthy golden retrievers it had betrayed by transferring them from its notorious canine muscular dystrophy laboratory to the veterinary school. This momentous news comes after PETA’s hard-fought campaign that began with our shocking exposé of the school’s horrendous laboratory. Our relentless pressure ended its cruel breeding of dogs to develop this crippling disease and led to the release of more than 50 canines.

PETA Says: End All Experiments on Dogs

In 1980, when PETA was founded, more than 211,000 dogs were used in experiments each year. Today, the number is closer to 65,000. This is great progress, but there remains much work to be done.

 At Texas A&M University, experimenters led by Joe Kornegay breed dogs to develop canine muscular dystrophy. The disease causes progressive muscle weakness, and video footage of the affected dogs in barren metal cells shows the animals struggling to stand or even swallow. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of dogs have been used by Kornegay in his experiments. He has been abusing dogs in laboratories for 38 years. The nearly four decades of animal suffering have failed to produce a cure or even a single effective treatment to reverse the debilitating symptoms of muscular dystrophy in humans. The ethics and scientific validity of his experiments are openly questioned by his peers.

PETA’s campaign against Kornegay’s experiments has deluged the university with more than a million e-mails and phone calls from PETA supporters. The university has resorted to making misleading statements about its dog laboratory, censoring critics of the laboratory, and blocking PETA’s attempts to secure records using Texas sunshine laws. Caring individuals have organized dozens of public protests, and PETA has filed three lawsuits over the school’s failure to be transparent about its cruel experiments.

—What You Can Do—

PETA has successfully ended many experiments on dogs—but it’s time to drive a nail in the coffin of dog experimentation forever. With your help, we can end the needless suffering of the thousands of dogs enduring unspeakable horrors in laboratories throughout the country.

Be sure to complete the PETA Action Alerts below—they all help dogs suffering in experiments. Once you’ve taken every action, discover more ways you can help dogs exploited by humans.

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