Updated 3/18/19: Dow AgroSciences announced it has ended the dog test exposed in this undercover investigation. We are grateful they have taken this step and hope they will work with the HSUS in placing these animals for adoption.
In the heartrending video—taken by an HSUS undercover investigator at a large Michigan research facility conducting experiments for different drugs, medical procedures and products—dogs cower in their cages, the cumbersome drug pumps inserted under their skin clearly visible, like weird boxy growths. Others lie limply, woozy from drugs, their skin ripe with sutured wounds where researchers inserted various substances. Animals in other experiments—dogs whose teeth were pulled and jaws were surgically broken to test a dental implant—didn’t make it onto the video.
Even amid all this, the undercover video shows many of the dogs wagging their tails and offering their tummies for rubs, still displaying their natural sweetness, still trusting that the humans who visit their cages will offer kindness.
Working in the laboratory is a grim prospect for an animal lover. Dogs housed alone in single cages get taken for exercise once a week, but those who have a double cage to themselves don’t get even that much time outside of it. As a technician overseeing the animals’ care, “you show up in the morning, you check your schedule on your email, and then there are certain things that always have to be done,” including checks to make sure no animals have died overnight, says the investigator (whose name has been withheld to protect his undercover work).
The lab technicians responsible for the dogs have to work through strange contradictions. “It’s a really weird kind of dynamic … I've seen every technician at certain points just play with a dog or cuddle with the dog,” the investigator says. “They kind of encourage that, for you to have good interactions with the animals, because that does help. But then at the same time, you carry them to necropsy the next day.”
One test being conducted was a pesticide study, in which dogs are fed different doses of the product to test its toxicity. It’s a test that is not even legally required in the United States and has been eliminated as a requirement virtually everywhere in the world. U.S. law requires a 90-day test on dogs to get a new pesticide approved, but the dogs in the laboratory we investigated were being subjected to an entire year of experimentation under the auspices of Dow AgroSciences. The study is scheduled to end in July, so the dogs are still alive at the time this article posted.
Dow itself has published papers arguing that the one-year pesticide test on dogs is unnecessary, and it has cooperated with Humane Society International in having the test removed from pesticide regulations globally, so it was startling to see the one-year test still being conducted on the company’s behalf. In November, the HSUS sent a letter to the company, alerting them to the test and asking for clarification on their reasons for conducting it, when they don’t need it to register a pesticide domestically. The HSUS concluded the letter by asking Dow to release the remaining dogs, so they have a chance to spend the rest of their lives in loving homes.
Dow responded, claiming it needed to conduct the test on dogs to comply with regulations in Brazil, which plans to formally end this test requirement later this year. In the meantime, Humane Society International secured a formal email communication from Brazilian officials stating that the one-year test is no longer required. Dow asked if HSUS and HSI would be willing to send a joint request to Brazil to secure a formal written letter to address their concerns, which the organizations quickly obtained and shared with Dow.
Unfortunately, the company still claims it needs further assurances before it releases the dogs. With dialogue at an impasse, the HSUS and HSI are now seeking help from supporters in pushing the company in the right direction.
“It is clear that dogs aren’t necessary for the one-year pesticide test, and we expect Dow to immediately put a stop to this study,” says Kathleen Conlee, vice president of animal research issues for the HSUS. In other toxicity tests, such as for drugs, Conlee says the use of dogs is outdated. “We can do better, and we should be doing better. You can still get somewhere with a horse and buggy, but is that the best way anymore? We want to have the conversation and find out: What data do they need that would help them move away from these tests?” Conlee is confident there are means to get the needed information that don’t involve subjecting dogs to these procedures, such as analysis of historical data on existing products and other technologies.
Even as the HSUS animal research team pushes toward a big, long-term goal—getting nearly 67,000 dogs out of animal testing and research altogether—Conlee first wants to try to save the ones who we know are still alive in the laboratory. “Our hope is that Dow will agree to release these 36 dogs,” she says.