UK

Animal Testing On Dogs And Cats Must Be Banned, MPs And Animal Rights Groups Demand

27/03/2014 15:26 GMT | Updated 27/03/2014 15:59 GMT

Three beagles rescued from a UK veterinary laboratory are spearheading a campaign to ban experiments on dogs and cats.

Nursing females Bonnie and Billie and five-month-old puppy Oliver faced a death sentence before their release from the animal vaccines lab, according to undercover investigators.

They were safely re-homed after the company running the lab, MSD Animal Health, agreed to let them go.

Now the trio have become the faces of the "Our Best Friends" campaign run by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV).

Bonnie and Billie's own puppies died at the laboratory, as did Oliver's mother, brothers and sisters.

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Billie secretly photographed at a animal testing laboratory, surrounded by her puppies

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Beagle puppy Oliver in his new home

During the eight month BUAV investigation 92 beagle puppies and 10 nursing females were said to have been killed at the facility, as well at least 15 kittens and an unknown number of rabbits, calves and chickens.

Sarah Kite, the BUAV's director of special projects, said: "Although these beagles are affected by their institutionalisation in a laboratory, they are learning quickly how enjoyable life can be.

"All three epitomise how easily many more of these dogs could have been released into loving homes. It's shameful, and we call for an immediate change in policy to enable this to happen."

Each year more than 3,000 dogs are used in animal tests in the UK, and 90,000 across the European Union and US.

Under the regulatory system that governs medicine development, all new drugs must be tested on rodents and one other non-human species before qualifying for patient trials.

In most cases, the "other" non-human species is a dog.

The BUAV claims it has evidence that dogs are not reliable indicators of drug safety in humans and conducting tests on them is pointless.

Geneticist Dr Jarrod Bailey, who conducted an in-depth analysis of dog experiments for the organisation, said: "Dogs have been used in drug testing for about 70 years.

"You would think there would be a very robust scientific case to support it, especially when you factor in how much public concern there is. The sensitive nature of dogs means they really do suffer very much indeed in a laboratory environment and in the experiments to which they are subjected.

"Unfortunately, there actually is no supporting case.. It's fair to say that dogs are used now as they always have been, simply because they aren't rats. Their use is demanded by regulators and lawyers because they provide a degree of legal protection when adverse events occur in humans, as they inevitably do."

Dr Bailey's study found that if a drug was thought to have a 70% chance of being safe in humans, testing it on a dog only increased this probability to 72%.

The contribution of the dog test was not statistically significant, he said.

He pointed out that 96% of new drugs that reach the stage of human trials fail due to unforeseen toxic effects, despite having been successfully tested on animals.

Hosting a reception at the House of Commons last night, BUAV supporter Henry Smith MP said: "Many people believe that even though they abhor the use of dogs in experiments it's something that is necessary to ensure that the drugs used by consumers and patients are safe.

"Not only is that a fallacy but actually it's quite dangerous. There's some bad science going on with regard to testing, particularly on dogs and cats."