A headline in a recent major newspaper read “Stories of scandals, secrets, and lies” which focuses on various scandals that make us cringe. The past week I have been almost obsessively researching scandals, lies, and especially secrecy concerning dogs being used in the testing industry. We have accepted the fact that rats and mice are routinely used in laboratories for experimentation and research, but it has been a maze of scandals, secrets, and lies as I researched the use of dogs in testing. According to the California based Beagle Freedom Project, approximately 70,000 dogs are used in research lab experiments every year. However, accusations abound about the statistics presented by the BFP, and it is difficult to separate fact from fiction, as this is a practice that is intentionally hidden from the public, with testing taking place behind closed doors. Research institutions often purchase animals from “Class A” Licensed animal breeders who produce animals for the purpose of selling them for experimentation. Some research institutions purchase dogs from Class B dealers, licensed dealers who sell “random source dogs” obtained from animal shelters, dog pounds, auctions, or individual people. The United States Department of Agriculture admits that tens of thousands of dogs area used for “research, testing, teaching, or experimentation” in the U.S. every year by research facilities.

The Humane Society International claims that a large percentage of dog used in lab experiments are beagles, because the breed’s trusting and loving nature makes them easier for lab technicians to handle. I have personal knowledge of a lab facility within an hour’s drive from my home that used beagles….I know because I am friends with the designer who built the windowless. Soundproof facility….but the public never knew about it. (I do not know if the practice still continues in this facility, since it is under new ownership, but I KNOW that took place there, and that the dogs were routinely euthanized at the end of experiments. )

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), dogs have been especially popular for use in toxicology tests, which determine safe levels of an unknown substance for humans, and to evaluate the hazards of ingredients in consumer products. It is now evident that tests on animals do not necessarily predict outcomes in humans, and many non-animal methods are available and continue to be developed.

I was shocked to learn that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires pharmaceutical companies to conduct archaic and painful tests, even in instances where reliable non-animal tests exist. The FDA has acknowledged that data produced from such tests are not reliable. During a recent meeting about funding for research, Dr. Elias Zerhouni, former National Institutes of Health director, told his colleagues that “The problem is that animal testing hasn’t worked, and it’s time we stopped dancing around the problem. We need to refocus and adapt new methodologies. There are modern alternatives, including in vitro testing, computer modeling, tissue engineering, and microdosing , that take less time and money and do not inflict pain on animals.” Thankfully almost all medical schools across the U.S. have completely replaced animal testing with simulators and systems like TraumaMan which are more effective in imparting lifesaving skills than courses that require students to experiment on dogs.

There’s light at the end of the tunnel as more people become aware of the practice of lab testing on animals. Be a hero for dogs and tell your friends and family to demand that Congress help end animal testing. Ask the FDA to stop requiring cruel, unreliable tests on animals, and to accept data from humane, non-animal methods instead. Make personal choices by refusing to buy products that are tested on animals. Contact your favorite brands to determine whether the company does any animal tests on their products, realizing that they may be less than truthful. Leapingbunny.org has an online shopping directory of companies that don’t test on animals, and the Beagle Freedom Project’s Cruelty-Cutter smartphone app. Allows you to simply scan an item in the store and you’ll get an immediate response about its animal testing status. Download it at cruelty-cutter.org

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead