How many dogs are used in experiments?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), laboratories reported having approximately 50,000 dogs in their facilities in 2019. The vast majority of dogs were used in experiments; almost 6,000 were used for breeding or were held but not used in experiments in 2019.

View a Map of the Number of Dogs Used in Experiments Per State

View a List of U.S. Laboratories 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, pesticides, medical devices and other products. 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. Dogs can receive these substances in their food, via pills or, in some cases, 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 testing 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 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.

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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 2019

Headquarters

Charles River Laboratories

8,735

MA

Covance Laboratories

4,744

NJ

Zoetis LLC

1,511

NJ

Summit Ridge Biosystems, Inc.

929

PA

Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA, Inc.

837

GA

 

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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. Breeders of purpose-bred dogs are called Class A dealers and are licensed and inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  

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Which dealers have large numbers of dogs in their possession?

Breeders of purpose-bred dogs 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 the largest numbers of dogs in their possession:

Dealer

# of dogs in 2019

Location

Marshall Farms Group Ltd.

23,354

North Rose, NY

Covance Research Products Inc.

4,795

Denver, PA

Ridglan Farms

3,153

Blue Mounds, WI

 

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What is life like for dogs in laboratories?

Dogs in laboratories are kept in barren steel cages, often alone. They may be 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. In some cases, they are used by technicians to practice procedures such as force-feeding and blood collection.

See What We Found in Our Recent Undercover Investigation

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What happens to the dogs once the experiment is over?

A few fortunate dogs may be adopted after their use in the laboratory, but the majority of dogs used in experiments are killed, especially those used in chemical/drug testing. 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.

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

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) is supposed to protect certain animals, like 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?

Certain tests on dogs are required by government agencies. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires that dogs be used in a 90-day pesticide test and the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates various products such as drugs, devices and food and color additives, will not approve potential drugs unless they are first tested on animals, which usually includes dogs since they have historically been used. Additional tests for pesticides and drugs are carried out on rats, rabbits, mice, birds and, in some cases, primates. These types of tests have been performed for years, regardless of whether they provide valuable information. It is time for agencies to take a critical look at these tests and determine if they provide information necessary for assessing human safety or if better approaches are available. Agencies should also be investing in the development of non-animal methods.

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What is pound seizure?

Pound seizure is the practice of releasing or selling cats and dogs in animal shelters to laboratories and other facilities where they are used in biomedical research, product development, testing and educational demonstrations. While a number of states no longer allow this practice, many still do or leave it up to localities to decide.

View a Map of State Pound Seizure Laws

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

Not only do non-animal test methods exist, but they are being developed at record speed—and the truth is that many of these methods are not only better for animals, they are better for humans too. While we’re not there yet, the world is moving toward a future dominated by sophisticated non-animal methods that use human cells and organs, 3D printing, robots, computers and other sophisticated methods to create approaches to testing and research that do not rely on animals. These methods can be faster, often less expensive and more effective than current animal experiments and will only continue to improve over time while animal testing will always have severe limitations.

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

We are currently 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.

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has already committed to ending the use of mammals in testing by 2035 and we would like to see the agency eliminate or significantly limit the 90-day dog test for pesticides in the near future.
  • 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 a recent independent panel review of their experiments using dogs that 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 the projects using dogs that they fund, 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 for all states to pass laws that limit the use of dogs in toxicity testing not required by law and to pass laws requiring that dogs in laboratories are adopted into homes after the experiments are over wherever possible.

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What can I do to help?

You can help animals used in experiments by swapping out your personal care and household products for cruelty-free versions! Products tested on dogs include pesticides such as weed killer, insect repellent, DEET, rat poison, boric acid, insect killer and mothballs. Cosmetics (such as shampoo, deodorant and lipstick) and household products (such as dish soap, laundry detergent and glass cleaner) are typically tested on rabbits, guinea pigs and other animals.

View Leaping Bunny’s Shopping Guide

You can also take action! Add your voice and demand better for dogs used in experiments.

Stand With Us to End Research and Tests on Dogs