As a bill to outlaw chemical tests on dogs that are not required by law advances in California, we are releasing a new poll today that shows overwhelming support among the state’s residents for ending such procedures.

The poll, commissioned by the Humane Society of the United States and conducted by Remington Research group, showed that 75% of poll respondents, cutting across age, gender, political affiliations and geographic regions, said they oppose the use of dogs to test the toxicity of products intended for human use, such as drugs, pesticides and food additives.

A further 63% said they would support a law in California to prohibit such testing on dogs. The poll was conducted in late March among 1,470 likely voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percent.

Toxicity testing on dogs leads to unnecessary animal suffering and produces dubious scientific results. Dogs who undergo toxicity testing suffer terribly. They may be force-fed drugs, pesticides or other substances and are observed for harmful effects such as heart failure, signs of cancer or even death. Some tests involve administering chemicals at extremely high doses to dogs over a prolonged period, causing slow deaths. Dogs are often killed after the studies so that their tissues and organs can be examined.

An expanding body of analysis demonstrates that tests on dogs are extremely unreliable at predicting human reactions to toxic substances---a coin toss, at best. Non-animal testing methods are more affordable, more predictive of impacts on humans and clearly less harmful to animals.

The poll also showed strong support for several related efforts to replace the use of all animals in research and testing with more humane and predictive alternatives.

  • 67% of those polled said they would support legislation to require laboratories in California to disclose the number of animals used in research and testing, the purpose of those experiments, and whether the animals experienced pain and distress.
  • 74% said they believe the government should invest in developing new, non-animal alternatives for biomedical research and product testing.

These poll results come even as the California Senate Committee on Judiciary voted this week to advance SB 252, which was introduced by State Sen. Scott Wiener. The bill would make it unlawful to conduct toxicity testing on dogs or cats not required by federal law or specifically exempted under measures in the bill. In our recent report that scrutinized the government’s role in funding, requiring or compelling experiments on dogs, we included the enactment of state legislation similar to SB 252 in California and other states.

California has long been a trailblazer for animal protection. Twenty years ago, the state was the first to pass legislation that mandated the use of non-animal test methods validated by the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM), a committee under the National Institutes of Health that seeks to advance the acceptance of alternative test methods. In 2018, the state was the first to pass a ban on the sale of cosmetics that are newly tested on animals; three other states have followed in its footsteps since and more are considering similar measures. By passing SB 252, the state would build upon this long-standing humane legacy and drive further innovation in humane and human-relevant testing methods.

People are shocked when they see images of dogs suffering in experiments, such as those captured in an HSUS undercover investigation released in 2019, and find it hard to believe these practices are still legal. It is estimated that there are more than 58,000 dogs being used in U.S. public, private and federal research and testing facilities each year, and the U.S. government is spending millions of taxpayer dollars each year to fund this research. Most Americans would not approve of this, and our recent polling makes it clear that the California public is ready for a change. We applaud the Senate Judiciary Committee for voting to advance this legislation and we will keep up the fight for ending toxicity testing on dogs until California—and other states—pass laws to end it.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.