Where Do Pet Dogs and Cats in Research Come From? New Data on Animal Use from the Canadian Council on Animal Care shows that, 11% of the time, the CCAC has no idea

Where were these dogs and cats acquired? Were they acquired legally?

TORONTO, Nov. 12, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — In general, dogs and cats make up a comparatively small percentage of research animals in Canada. So it’s likely many Canadians are unaware that lost, abandoned or surrendered pet dogs and cats are used in experimentation.

The Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC), which oversees animal research in Canada, does have rules about where researchers can procure pet dogs and cats—which is usually from pounds and shelters. As well, the organization’s guidelines state that these animals must be acquired legally.

But Liz White, Director of Animal Alliance of Canada and the campaign No Pets in Research says, “Neither the CCAC nor the Canadian public have any real idea as to how many pet dogs and cats are procured for research in Canada each year. On top of that, the research community seems unable to identify where about 11% of these dogs and cats came from. They’re simply categorized as ‘source unspecified’.

“In raw numbers, the most recent data shows 591 cats—or 10% of the total number—listed as ‘source unspecified.’ Meanwhile, 11%, or 1,364, dogs were categorized the same way,” White continued. “How is it possible that research facilities would not know where roughly two thousand research animals came from in a single year?”

The CCAC stipulates that institutions ensure research animals are legally acquired and that pet animals be given maximum time to be adopted, and/or returned to an owner searching for a lost pet. “With so many dogs and cats listed as ‘source unspecified’,” White pointed out, “it would be impossible for the research facility to meet the CCAC guidelines designed to give added protection to lost pets. Equally—and tragically—it would be impossible for someone to find a lost dog or cat, rather than having that pet wind up in research.”

White added that it is critically important to keep lost pets from going to research. “Many of them are subjected to Category D—i.e., painful—experimentation. The most recent figures show that close to 600 randomly sourced pet dogs and close to a thousand randomly sourced pet cats wound up in experiments causing the animal moderate to severe distress and discomfort. In addition, 335 dogs and cats from ‘sources unknown,’ were also subjected to cruel and painful experiments. Pet owners across Canada would be horrified if they knew what might happen to their beloved cat or dog who has gone missing or been stolen.”

The degree of invasiveness of Category D experiments includes: subjecting animals to major surgical procedures under general anaesthesia; prolonged (i.e., several hours or more) periods of physical restraint; inducing stress, such as depriving them of their mothers; subjecting them to aggression or predator-prey interactions; procedures which cause severe, persistent or irreversible disruption of sensory and motor systems, and the use of inflammatory agents, particularly Freund’s Complete Adjuvant, which can result in severe and lasting side effects.

Because the current situation of pet dogs and cats in research is unacceptable—particularly the failure of researchers and the CCAC to trace the source of so many who wind up in experimentation—the Animal Alliance is calling upon the federal government to:

Prohibit the use of pet dogs and cats in experiments in Canada, by directing funding agencies and health charities to withhold research dollars for any research involving pet dogs and cats.

As well, the Animal Alliance is calling upon the CCAC to:

  1. Require research facilities to properly source all research animals, as a prerequisite to receiving the CCAC’s Certificate of Good Animal Practice, as well as public funding dollars;
  2. Ensure that dog and cat statistics continue to differentiate purpose-bred animals from those randomly sourced, in order to meet CCAC guidelines on transparency, regarding the use of pets in research; and
  3. Prohibit the use of any pet dogs and cats in experiments ranked as Category D or E levels of Invasiveness.

For further information: Liz White: [email protected] or 416-809-4371