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A dog in a dirty wire cage before being rescued from a puppy mill
The HSUS 2016

How many dogs are used in experiments every year?

On average, more than 60,000 dogs are used in experiments each year in the United States. In 2021, laboratories reported having approximately 43,000 dogs in their possession, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The vast majority of these dogs were used in experiments; approximately 3,000 were used for breeding or were held but not used in experiments in 2021. Tens of thousands of additional dogs destined for labs are born at breeding facilities every year.

Use our Animal Laboratory Search Tool to find information about universities, hospitals, companies and other organizations that use certain animals in experiments.

View Number of Dogs Used in Experiments by State

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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, and rat poison. This kind of testing tries 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. Most dogs used in these kinds of tests 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 experiments. 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 experiment is over.

View Number of Dogs Used in Product, Pesticide and Drug Tests by State

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What kinds of institutions use dogs in experiments?

More than 250 institutions in the U.S. report using dogs in experiments each year, including chemical, pesticide and drug companies (and the contract laboratories that carry out dog tests for these companies), public and private universities, community and technical schools, government-owned facilities, Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities and hospitals.

View USDA List of Organizations that Use Dogs in Experiments

View Chart of Institutions That Use Dogs in Experiments

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

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

Research institution

# of dogs in 2021

Headquarters

Charles River Laboratories

9,284

MA

Labcorp Early Development Laboratories Inc.

4,724

WI

Zoetis LLC

1,416

NJ

Summit Ridge Biosystems, Inc.

1,124

PA

Daniel E. Holland Military Working Dog Hospital

977

TX

 

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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 with the intent of selling them to laboratories that use dogs in harmful experiments. Tens of thousands of dogs destined for labs are born at breeding facilities every year. 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. Thankfully, 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 rather than euthanizing them when requested, and other states 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 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 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 2021, the following dealers had some of the largest numbers of dogs in their possession:

Dealer

of dogs reported in 2021

Location

Marshall Farms Group Ltd.

21,283

North Rose, NY

Envigo RMS LLC

3,113

Indianapolis, IN

Ridglan Farms

2,783

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 unbearably 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 include 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 2022 undercover investigation at Indiana laboratory Inotiv, one of America’s largest animal testing labs. We documented hundreds of dogs, monkeys, rats and pigs undergoing experiments, including terrified beagle puppies being force-fed potentially toxic drugs in cruel and ineffective months-long tests paid for by Crinetics, a pharmaceutical company in San Diego.
  • Read about our 2019 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 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.

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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 into loving homes after the experiments they were used in have ended. As of December 2022, 15 states have such laws.

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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, 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 animal laboratories 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 regulations; however, the federal government plays a significant role in most of the experiments carried out on dogs in the U.S.

These types of tests on dogs have been performed for decades, 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 actually provide information that is 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 using dogs in experiments?

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 for 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 multi-organ responses
  • Sophisticated computer models use existing information (instead of carrying out more animal tests) to predict how a medicine or chemical, such as a cholesterol drug 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.

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What are you doing to end experiments on dogs?

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

  • In the summer of 2022, we led the removal of 3,776 beagles from Envigo, a facility in Virginia that bred dogs to sell to animal laboratories. This historic mission was the result of a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice that described shocking violations of the Animal Welfare Act at the facility. Instead of continuing to suffer, the dogs removed from Envigo were headed to loving homes, a process facilitated by our shelter and rescue partners around the country.
  • In April 2022, we released the results of our six-month undercover investigation at Indiana laboratory Inotiv, one of America’s largest animal testing labs, including footage of terrified beagle puppies being force-fed potentially toxic drugs in cruel and ineffective months-long tests paid for Crinetics, a pharmaceutical company in San Diego.
  • 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 U.S. government’s role in using dogs in experiments. We found that the government uses millions of taxpayer dollars to fund harmful experiments on dogs each year—and also seems to prefer that companies 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. For example:
    • 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) to assess the risk that pesticides pose to humans, 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 their reliance on using mammals to test pesticides and chemicals by 2035.
    • We are asking the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to support the development of alternative methods that replace dogs in experiments. 
    • We want the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to adopt the recommendations of an independent panel review released in 2020 that analyzed VA 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 protect dogs in laboratories. We support bills to:
    • prohibit or limit the use of dogs in experiments not required by federal law.
    • ensure an opportunity for dogs and cats to be adopted into loving homes after the experiment ends.
    • strengthen regulatory oversight of facilities that breed dogs destined for laboratories and increase penalties for animal welfare violations.
    • direct funding from state government programs to support the research and development of modern technologies based on human biology that don’t use animals.

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

No dog deserves to suffer in a laboratory. Join us in the fight to end 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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