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Examples of Severe Animal Suffering in Laboratories

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Every day, hundreds of thousands of animals, including cats, monkeys, rabbits and dogs, are forced to suffer in laboratory cages and undergo painful experiments.

The following ten examples illustrate the kind of severe suffering that these animals can experience behind the closed doors of university and company laboratories.

1. After three dogs were forced to ingest a test substance every day for five days at Charles River Laboratories, they experienced labored breathing and a high heart rate. They became cold to the touch, were not able to be aroused and were seen with the test substance in their mouths and on their bodies. One dog died and the other two were euthanized one to two days later. 1

2. In the course of manufacturing Dysport®, an anti-wrinkle treatment, the Ipsen Corporation routinely performs a test known as Lethal Dose 50 Percent. The test involves injecting scores of mice with a powerful toxin in order to determine the dose that will kill 50 percent of the animals. The animals experience nausea and a wave of muscle paralysis, leading to severe distress as they slowly suffocate to death over the course of the three to four day procedure.

3. Following exposure to a lethal dose of radiation during a study conducted at the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute—a U.S. military facility—a pig showed signs of organ failure, loss of appetite and depression; had chronic bleeding from injection sites and an injured tooth; did not want to stand up; and was seen with his head hanging in his water bowl with his nostrils submerged. After the on-call veterinarian failed to respond to a technologist's request to examine him to decide whether he should be humanely euthanized, the pig died overnight. 2

4. At Cornell University, laboratory personnel failed to ensure that woodchuck housing was safe, resulting in a woodchuck pup catching his front limbs in the bars of the inner door of an isolation cage. Both limbs were broken and, as a result, he was euthanized. 3

5. In a study of viral infection conducted at University of California, San Diego, eight infected guinea pigs were not humanely euthanized before they became hunched in pain, barely able to move, and lost their ability to eat and drink. 4

6. At Virginia Commonwealth University, a rabbit was not removed from her cage before it was sent through a cage washing system. Cage washing machines typically reach temperatures of up to 180 degrees. One can hardly imagine the pain and distress she experienced as she was scalded to death. 5

7. In a malaria study conducted at Emory University, a four year-old monkey was reluctant to move nine days after being infected; had signs of severe malaria; was not eating; and had a high heart rate. Ten days after being infected, he had pale mucous membranes, a severe heart murmur, severe anemia, and purple spots all over his body. Twelve days after being infected, he appeared reluctant to use his hands and developed gangrene on his fingertips and tail, which he was biting, a symptom of extreme distress. Fourteen days after being infected, the monkey was finally euthanized. This monkey’s symptoms should not have progressed to such an extensive state of suffering before euthanasia was employed. 6

8. During surgery by unsupervised, inexperienced students at St. Lawrence University, a rabbit was inadequately anesthetized and was sitting up and kicking during the procedure. Surgery on an animal who has not received adequate anesthesia can result in extreme pain and distress. 7

9. In a study published in a scientific journal, rats were placed in a swimming pool one at a time, and then, without any warning, an escape-proof wire net was placed over their body, forcing them underwater for 30 seconds at a time to create an experience of "underwater trauma." 8

10. In a study of viral infection conducted at the Southern Research Institute, three monkeys suffered from rapid disease progression and died before personnel were able to intervene. 9


1 USDA Annual Report of Charles River Laboratories (2005)
2 Event reported by Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute to the National Institutes of Health's Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare in June 2005
3 Event reported by Cornell University to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare in July 2005 
4 USDA Annual Report of University of California, San Diego (2008)
5 Event reported by Virginia Commonwealth University to the National Institutes of Health's Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare in May 2005
6Am. J. Trop. Med. Hyg. (2007). 76(4), 648-654. Case Report: Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation Complicated By Peripheral Gangrene In A Rhesus Macaque (Macaca Mulatta) Experimentally Infected With Plasmodium Coatneyi. 
7 USDA Annual Report of St. Lawrence University (2004) 
8 Neuropsychopharmacology. (2004). 29, 1962–1970. Setting Apart the Affected: The Use of Behavioral Criteria in Animal Models of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
USDA Annual Report of Southern Research Institute (2005)

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