Behind the Mortar Walls of Laboratories that Test on Dogs
The little pup, hardly 6 months of age, struggled to pick himself up as he fell on the cold floor of his cage in the laboratory, for the umpteenth time. Once again he tried to stand on his frail paws but only to fall as a fresh bout of seizures threw him uncontrollably against the walls of the metal cage- leaving him injured and bleeding. He was screaming in anguish, visibly writhing in pain as the poison of the pesticide fed to him was slowly destroying his brain- but the little one was fully alive and yes – he will not die. Masked faces with gloved hands watched this defenceless little pup, who just a few days ago was bliss fully running in circles playing with his mother and siblings. They nodded in agreement that this surely was the “Maximum Tolerated Dose” (MTD) for the pesticide that the puppy can with stand. The dose at which the animal shows close to fatal signs – the dose at which the animal will suffer excruciating pain but will not die.
Based on the Maximum Tolerated Dose (MTD) for each test substance, acute, sub- acute sub- chronic and chronic studies (7 days, 28 days, 90 days, 180 days and even one year studies) are conducted on dogs even before they are one year old.
Dogs used in toxicity testing die when they are forced to inhale toxic fumes of the test substance or when they succumb to the drug / agrochemical (chemicals which are in reality just poisons used to kill weeds, insects, fungi, etc.) force fed to them. Yet others linger on in sub- chronic and chronic tests as their bodies’ battle the poison of the test substance given in low doses for months on end. Helpless and defenceless, with no relief from the bitter pain, they are forced to endure, they cower on the cold floor in laboratories, cringing in fear for the next dose to come. For weeks and months on end they will writhe in pain with bleeding stomach ulcers, breaking into bouts of repeated convulsions and seizures that throw them uncontrollably against the metal cages as the poison destroys their bodies and minds. Slowly and surely they will turn yellow with jaundice and bodies turn moribund as their livers cease to function. Yet, some linger fighting death but only to be killed at the end of the study and their frail bodies are autopsied. In non-terminal called ‘pharmaco –kinetic’ studies dogs are tested hundreds of times over until they die in sheer agony of being used over and over again or killed as they are “no more fit’ to be used in more experiments.
Dogs have been used in toxicity testing more as a matter of convenience than on a scientific basis. The soundness of the dog model to predict ‘toxicity levels in human beings’ and the ethics of using the dog – a social and sentient vertebrate – has remained unchallenged for over half a century even though there has been evidence to the contrary.
In the late 1990’s scientists demonstrated that dogs were not required for the prediction of safe doses for humans. More recently in 2013, scientists in UK demonstrated that testing on dogs in drug discovery provided an insignificant 2% more information than when tested on rodents. The well-known scientific basis for this failure is because most canine Cytochrome P450 Enzymes (CYPs)—the major enzymes involved in drug metabolism are different to those in humans and hence extrapolating toxicity data between species ( dogs to humans) is unrealistic and futile.
However, the decadence of using dogs in toxicity testing has gone on far too long and has been far too deeply engrained in regulatory guidelines, both international and national, rendering this practice a false halo of being a ‘scientific need for the cause of human welfare and health’. This has created a seemingly formidable wall between truth and reality- deterring every right-thinking citizen and the tax payer from opposing this cruel practice.
Besides the unrelenting cruelty in testing in itself, the use of dogs as a laboratory animal has provided a fertile ground for a prolific multi- billion dollar beagle breeding business the USA, UK and China. These dogs born in claustrophobic puppy mills would never know the warmth of sunshine or human touch, are born only to suffer and die in laboratories. They are shipped across continents as cargo for weeks on end, stashed in cages only to be tested on even before they reach 9 months of age.
Every pet dog owner will vouch that dogs are perceptive, cognitive, intuitive and capable of positive emotions of love and empathy. The laboratory beagles is no different from your pet dog at home. Imagine your dear pet dog being caged for life and fed a poison slowly until the poison robs him of his very health and finally kills him. Would you watch this in silence?
Noted canine researcher and psychologist Stanley Coren surmises that based on several behavioural measures, a dogs’ mental abilities are close to a human child in the age of 2 to 2.5 years. Yes, the dog – “Man’s best friend” – is no less than a human child. Not surprisingly so.
As we face this realty of millions of dogs needlessly suffering and dying in labs, let us pledge today that their cries will NOT go unheard anymore and their suffering will NOT go unseen anymore. Join the Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA) by filling out this form- http://bit.ly/CPCSEANominee
To join the “Sound of Silence Campaign” -to say “NO” to the use of dogs in testing go to http://chn.ge/2aG3rtB
(About the author – Dr. Shiranee Pereira worked with the ICAR, GOI as senior scientist for 22 years and is the Co- Founder of People for Animals, Chennai. She has been associated with the CPCSEA, since 2000 both as Expert Consultant and as a member of the national committee. During her tenure with the CPCSEA, she was instrumental in bringing out national guidelines that limits re-use and mandates the rehabilitation of equines and dogs used in laboratories .She initiated in 2007 the national campaign to stop the use of animals in dissection, which resulted In the ban in use of animals in biological sciences in 2012 saving more than 18,000 animals annually. For the very first time in India, she introduced the science of alternatives to the use of animals in research /testing, with a national conference on alternatives in 2002 in New Delhi. She founded the Mahatma Gandhi Doerenkamp Centre (MGDC) for the use of alternatives to animals in research and education in 2009 in Bharathidasan University, Tiruchi– which in 2016 has been declared as the National Centre for Alternatives to Animal Use under the University Grants Commission.)