118th Congressional Session Aims to Protect Dogs Used in Research

Beagles made headlines in 2022 when 4000 of them were rescued from the Envigo breeding and research facility. The facility was found to have dozens of violations of federal regulations. Envigo and other facilities like it work with pharmaceutical and biotech industries to breed, sell, and transport animals like dogs for animal experimentation.  

While it is not easy to get an exact number of how many animals are used in animal experimentation, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) reported more than 50,000 dogs were used in a single year in the past. Dogs are used in experiments across industries—they are used in toxicity testing for drug development, pesticides, and biomedical experimentation. 

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) protects dogs used in experimentation, but the AWA only provides minimum standards for food, care, exercise, and housing. The USDA is the enforcement body of the AWA. Despite the USDA being tasked with inspecting labs and breeding facilities and monitoring compliance, many violations are not reported or go unnoticed. For example, in the case of the Envigo facility, the USDA inspections showed the facility needed to make improvements, but upon a more significant investigation, the violations went beyond “making improvements.”  

The inspections that began in July 2021 found that the dogs “often lived with a buildup of inches of feces and food waste” and one particular beagle was found with her paw caught in the floor while “she was standing on her other three feet while panting and making small movements.” Despite these findings, it was not until members of Congress pushed for Envigo’s license to be suspended that the beagles began to receive help.

Fortunately, some bills introduced in Congress that aim to protect dogs used in research include the Protecting Dogs Subjected to Experiments Act, Puppy Protection Act of 2023, and the CARE Act of 2023. These bills look to prohibit the National Institutes of Health from funding research that involves testing on dogs, requiring the Department of Agriculture to expand the standards that govern the care and treatment of dogs for commercial dog dealers including providing “meaningful socialization with humans and compatible dogs,” Additionally, it requires a condition for receiving funding from the National Institutes of Health for those using animals in testing to establish adoption policies for dogs and other animals. Certain states such as Maryland have adopted bills that require labs to offer animals used in experiments for adoption after they have been tested on rather than killing them. Other states, like Illinois, passed laws that ban the use of dogs and cats in toxicity testing, except for certain purposes. 

While these bills intend to protect dogs, dogs are not the only animals subjected to cruel conditions and experimentation for medical research and toxicity testing. More than 800,000 animals including dogs were reported as used in research in 2021. CCS is supportive of the bills to protect dogs, but we also work to protect all animals used in research and toxicity testing by supporting a shift to human-relevant research methods that do not use animals. 





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