How many dogs are used in experiments every year?

On average, more than 60,000 dogs are used in experiments each year. In 2020, laboratories reported having 43,580 dogs in their possession, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The vast majority of these dogs were used in experiments; approximately 1,600 were used for breeding or were held but not used in experiments in 2020.

Use our Animal Laboratory Public Search Tool to find information about facilities that use dogs and other animals in experiments.

View Map of Dogs Used in Experiments by State

View USDA Chart of Labs that Use Dogs in Experiments

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What kinds of experiments are dogs used in?

Dogs are used to test the safety of drugs, medical devices and pesticides such as weed killer, insect repellent, DEET and rat poison. Testing aims to determine how a substance, ingredient or device will affect human health. Dogs used for testing are fed quantities of the test substance—such as a weed killer or a new medicine under development—on a daily basis for months and observed for harmful effects. These substances can be given to the dogs in their food, as pills or through force-feeding. They are sometimes injected with substances or forced to inhale them. The dogs are eventually killed so that their tissues and organs can be examined. In order to test medical devices or other products, dogs are implanted with items such as pacemakers and typically killed after the test period is over.

Dogs are also used in many types of biomedical experiments, including cardiac, neurological, respiratory and dental. Dogs may be specially bred to have a fatal disease, such as muscular dystrophy. In other cases, healthy dogs will be operated on to give them symptoms of serious conditions like heart disease or to remove or damage some of their organs and then further experimented upon. They are also typically killed after the research is over.

View State Map of Dogs Used in Product and Drug Testing

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What kinds of institutions use dogs in experiments?

Chemical, pesticide and drug companies (as well as contract laboratories that carry out tests for these companies), public and private universities, community and technical schools, government-owned facilities, Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities and hospitals use dogs in research and testing.

View a Chart of Institutions That Use Dogs

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Which laboratories in the U.S. have the largest number of dogs in their possession?

Research institution

# of dogs in 2020

Headquarters

Charles River Laboratories

8,831

MA

Covance Laboratories

4,385

NJ

Daniel E. Holland Military Working Dog Hospital

1,376

TX

Summit Ridge Biosystems, Inc.

1,086

PA

Zoetis LLC

1,306

NJ

 

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Where do laboratories get the dogs they use in experiments?

The majority of dogs in laboratories are purpose-bred, meaning that they are bred specifically to be used in experiments. People who breed and sell purpose-bred animals (including dogs) are called Class A dealers and are licensed and inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  

Historically, some cats and dogs were sold to laboratories by brokers known as random source Class B dealers, who acquired animals at auctions, from newspaper ads and various other sources, including animal shelters. Random source Class B dealers have not been allowed to operate since 2015 when Congress first passed legislation to prevent them from being licensed.  

Some cats and dogs in laboratories are still obtained directly from animal shelters, a practice known as “pound seizure.” Pound seizure laws vary from state to state with one state (Oklahoma) requiring shelters to give cats and dogs to laboratories when requested, rather than euthanizing them, and others allowing or prohibiting laboratories from taking animals from animal shelters. Some states have no laws at all, leaving it up to the individual shelter or locality.

View a Map of State Pound Seizure Laws

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Which dealers have large numbers of dogs in their possession?

Breeders of purpose-bred dogs (dogs that are bred specifically to be used in tests and experiments) are called Class A dealers and are licensed and inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Of the Class A dealers selling to laboratories in 2019, the following dealers had some of the largest numbers of dogs in their possession:

Dealer

of dogs reported on most recent USDA inspection report

Location

Marshall Farms Group Ltd.

20,317

North Rose, NY

Covance Research Products Inc.

4,795

Chantilly, VA

Ridglan Farms

2,748

Mount Horeb, WI

 

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What is life like for dogs in laboratories?

Dogs in laboratories suffer immensely. In addition to the painful experiments that the vast majority of dogs in laboratories experience over days, months, years or even decades, life in a laboratory is typically a miserable and terrifying experience.

Typically kept alone in barren steel cages with little room to move around and few, if any, comforts, such as toys or soft bedding, dogs often become excruciatingly lonely and anxious, often devoid of the companionship of other dogs or the loving touch of a human. The painful—often excruciating—procedures that they experience, including being intentionally injured, implanted with medical devices, infected with diseases, subjected to repeated surgeries, force-fed drugs, pesticides or other substances and observed for harmful effects such as heart failure, liver disease, signs of cancer or even death. They typically also watch (or hear) other animals suffering, including their own parents, siblings or babies.

Dogs in laboratories are also subject to mistreatment by inexperienced or careless staff. Although there are penalties for laboratories when animals are injured or killed due to negligence or when they fail to meet minimum standards of animal care, in reality, the fines are typically either very small or waived entirely.

Read About Our 2019 Undercover Investigation

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What happens to the dogs once the experiment is over?

Dogs are typically killed once an experiment is over, particularly dogs used in chemical/drug testing. However, more and more states are passing laws that require laboratories, when possible, to offer dogs to shelters and other rescue organizations so they can be adopted after the experiments they were used in have ended.

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Aren’t there laws to protect dogs used in experiments?

The Animal Welfare Act is supposed to protect certain animals, including dogs, used in experiments, but this law only offers minimum standards for housing, food and exercise. The law also stipulates that the proposed experiments be reviewed by an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, which is appointed by the laboratory and largely made up of employees of the institution. A 2014 audit report reviewing AWA oversight of research facilities found that “animals are not always receiving basic humane care and treatment and, in some cases, pain and distress are not minimized during and after experimental procedures.”

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Why are dogs still used in experiments?

The vast majority of experiments on dogs are not required by government law or regulation, although data from tests on non-rodent species are often requested by government agencies to assess the safety of products such as industrial chemicals, pesticides, medical devices and medicines. Dogs are typically the animals used in those cases.

For example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires that a new pesticide be fed to dogs for 90 days as part of its evaluation and approval process. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates various products such as drugs, medical devices, food, fragrances and color additives, will not approve potential drugs unless they are first tested on animals, which usually includes dogs. In addition to tests on dogs, mice and rats, rabbits, birds and primates are also used to test pesticides and drugs. These types of tests have been performed for years, regardless of whether they provide valuable information. While some regulatory agencies, like the EPA, are now taking a critical look at these tests and determining if they provide information necessary for assessing how safe a product or substance is for humans, or if better approaches are available, others have done little. More efforts can be made by agencies to invest in and encourage the development of non-animal methods.

Swapping animal experiments for non-animal alternative methods seems like a straightforward process, given that using animals has so many limitations and sophisticated new technologies offer countless possibilities for creating methods that are more humane and that more accurately mimic how the human body will respond to drugs, chemicals or treatments. Unfortunately, developing these alternatives is a complex process facing many obstacles, including inadequate funding. In some cases, a non-animal alternative must be formally validated—an expensive and lengthy process—in order to be accepted by government regulatory agencies, both in the U.S. and globally. In contrast, animal experiments have never been subjected to the same level of scrutiny and validation. Despite these challenges, many scientists are increasingly committed to developing and using non-animal methods.

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What are the non-animal alternatives to experiments using dogs?

The world is moving toward a future dominated by sophisticated methods that use human cells, tissues and organs, 3D printing, robotics, computer models and other technologies to create experiments that do not rely on animals.

While animal tests were developed decades ago and will always have severe limitations, these advanced non-animal methods represent the very latest techniques that science has to offer, provide countless possibilities to improve our understanding and treatment of the human body and will only continue to improve over time. Non-animal methods also have several advantages over outdated animal experiments: they more closely mimic how the human body responds to drugs, chemicals and treatments; they are more efficient and often less expensive; and they are more humane. Ultimately, moving away from antiquated animal experiments is better for both humans and animals.

We advocate for the immediate replacement of animal experiments with available non-animal methods and funding to develop new methods. A concerted effort to shift funding and technological development toward more non-animal alternatives will lead us toward a future where animal experiments will become a thing of the past.

examples of non-animal alternative methods

  • “Organs-on-chips” are tiny 3D chips created from human cells that look and function like miniature human organs. The organs-on-chips are used to determine how human systems respond to different drugs or chemicals and to find out exactly what happens during infection or disease. Several organs, representing heart, liver, lungs or kidneys, for example, can be linked together through a “microfluidic” circulatory system to create an integrated “human-on-a-chip” model that lets researchers assess what might happen in the whole body.
  • Sophisticated computer models use existing information (instead of carrying out more animal tests) to predict how a medicine or chemical, such as drain cleaner or lawn fertilizer, might affect a human.
  • Cells from a cancer patient’s tumor are used to test different drugs and dosages to get exactly the right treatment for that specific individual, rather than testing the drugs on animals.
  • Specialized computers use human cells to print 3D tissues that are used to test drugs.
  • Skin cells from patients, such as those with Alzheimer’s disease, are turned into other types of cells (brain, heart, lung, etc.) in the laboratory and used to test new treatments.
  • Sophisticated computer programming, combined with 3D imaging, is used to develop highly accurate 3D models of human organs, such as the heart. Researchers then input real-world data from healthy people and those with heart disease to make the model hearts “beat” and then test how they might respond to new drugs.

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What are the disadvantages to using animals in experiments?

  • Animal experiments are time-consuming and expensive.
  • Animal experiments don’t accurately mimic how the human body and human diseases respond to drugs, chemicals or treatments.
  • Animals are very different from humans and, therefore, react differently.
  • Increasing numbers of people find animal testing unethical.
  • There are many diseases that humans get that animals do not.

What are you doing to end experiments on dogs in the United States?

There is no place for harmful experiments on dogs in U.S. We are committed to ending this practice.

  • In 2019, we released the results of our undercover investigation at a Michigan laboratory where thousands of dogs are killed every year. After weeks of pressure from the public, the pesticide company that had commissioned a test year-long fungicide test on 32 dogs, agreed that the test was unnecessary and released the dogs to one of our shelter partners to be adopted.

  • In 2021, we released a report examining the government’s role in using dogs in experiments. We found that the U.S. government spends millions of taxpayer dollars to fund harmful experiments on dogs each year—and also requires or compels companies to carry out dog tests. Our researchers scrutinized public records and found that between 2015 and 2019, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded more than $200 million to 200 institutions for 303 projects that used dogs in harmful experiments. Dogs were subjected to multiple surgeries, fitted with equipment to impair their heart function and implanted with devices to alter normal bodily functions. Following the conclusion of an experiment, dogs are typically killed instead of being adopted into loving homes.

  • We are calling on federal agencies to develop a plan and create a timetable for phasing out and ending all experiments on dogs. We also want all the federal funding mechanisms to commit to supporting the development and use of non-animal methods.

    • After a recent analysis we performed that showed the 90-day dog test for pesticide registration was rarely used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in risk assessment, we are urging the agency to eliminate or significantly limit this test in the near future. We also want the agency to reaffirm their previously stated commitment to end reliance on the use of mammals for testing of pesticides and chemicals by 2035.
    • We are asking the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to support the development of methods that replace the use of dogs. 
    • We want the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to adopt the recommendations of independent panel review released in 2020 that analyzed their experiments using dogs, identified several areas where dogs are not needed and urged the agency to develop a strategy to replace all animal use. 
    • We are recommending that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) scrutinize grant proposals for projects using dogs, by applying strict criteria that must be met before dogs can be used and that they ban the use of dogs in experiments that cause unrelieved pain. We are also requesting that the NIH define a date when they will no longer fund or support experiments on dogs.
  • We are pushing states to pass laws that limit the use of dogs in testing that is not required by law, as well as laws requiring that dogs in laboratories are adopted into homes after an experiment has ended wherever possible.

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What can I do to help end tests and experiments on dogs and other animals?

Swap out your personal care and household products for cruelty-free versions! Cosmetics (such as shampoo, deodorant and lipstick) and household products (such as dish soap, laundry detergent and glass cleaner) are typically tested on guinea pigs, rabbitsmice and rats.

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