Animal Use in Education

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Students Advocating for Student Choice Policies and Alternatives

Starting in the late 1800s, coinciding with when frog dissection become commonplace, humane education programs were being initiated in primary schools, and by 1922, many states had passed laws requiring humane education programs45,46,47. However, these curricula mainly emphasized fostering a moral kindness or civility (“character training”) toward animals in order to prevent violent and cruel behavior in children that could later be transferred to fellow humans.

For many students, harming animals for education purposes is a violation of deeply held principles and beliefs.During the late 1980s and 1990s, when animal dissection became widespread, extending to cats, fetal pigs, crayfish, and sharks, a movement began to give students other options to learn about animal anatomy and physiology without involving harm to animals. For many students, harming animals for educational purposes is a violation of deeply held principles and ethics. Student choice policies have since been enacted in several states for primary and secondary school education, and many colleges and graduate programs have also passed student choice policies. (See Sec. IV for an overview of how to help eliminate the harmful use of animals in education. See Appendix B for a guide to implementing student choice policies, and for a comprehensive description of the latest alternatives available for undergraduate and graduate education.)

1. Primary and Secondary Education The first student choice policy at the Kindergarten-12th grade (K-12) level was enacted in 1985 in the state of Florida48. However, it was California that received national media attention on the issue of dissection when California high school student Jenifer Graham filed a lawsuit against her school after learning she either had to dissect or accept a lowered biology grade49. Although Ms. Graham’s case was settled in August 1988, Jenifer was instrumental in helping California adopt its student choice law in March 198850, which allows students from K-12 to object to dissection and instead use humane alternatives51.

Graham’s case was supported by animal protection organizations and garnered national attention about dissection. Thus, a movement began to allow students to seek alternatives to the use of animals in education at the secondary level and beyond. A national telephone hotline (1-800-922-FROG)52 was even established for students looking for information about alternatives to animal dissection53. In the first two years of its existence, the hotline received over 16,000 calls from parents and students regarding elementary level courses through college54. In 1996, Animalearn launched its free loan program for alternatives to dissection, The Science Bank, which provides students and educators with humane tools to learn and teach anatomy and physiology without harming animals (See Appendix B for information on alternatives available from The Science Bank).

Student choice policies give students the option to use alternatives to animal use.Today there are 15 states that have such state laws or policies for K-12 students, including California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia55. Animalearn and its parent organization, American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS), were instrumental in the passage of several of the current state policies, including for their home state of Pennsylvania56.

Current States with Student Choice Laws & Resolutions

Florida - Enacted state law in 1985
California – Enacted state law in 1988
Maine – Enacted Department of Education Policy in 1989
Pennsylvania – Enacted state law in 1992
Louisiana – Enacted state resolution in 1992
New York – Enacted state law in 1994
Rhode Island – Enacted state law in 1997
Maryland – All counties enacted policies by 1997
Illinois – Enacted state law in 2000
Virginia – Enacted state law in 2004
Oregon – Enacted state law in 2005
Massachusetts – Enacted Board of Education Policy 2005
New Mexico – Enacted Public Education Department Policy 2005
New Jersey – Enacted state law in 2006
Vermont – Enacted state law in 2008

(Bolded states indicate statewide law.)

2. Colleges and Universities Unlike secondary and elementary schools, neither private nor public colleges and universities are covered by state student choice laws. As a result, individual institutions prescribe their own guidelines on issues such as dissection and vivisection in the classroom. Fortunately, many college students have voiced their objections to the harmful use of animals and have been successful in encouraging their institutions to create student choice policies at the collegiate level (See Appendix B.3. and 4. for information on creating a student choice policy).

Several universities have established student choice policies, due largely to the perseverance of ethically-minded students.For example, in 1994, New York’s Sarah Lawrence College became the first college to adopt a formal student choice policy, which includes this statement: “Sarah Lawrence College does not require students with ethical objections to participate in dissection. Students who choose to refrain from such activities will be given alternatives that provide similar experiences57.” While some colleges and universities have had informal or unwritten student choice policies prior to this, this was the first formal policy adopted by a U.S. college for biology courses58.

Since then, several Ivy League and state universities have followed in Sarah Lawrence’s ethical footsteps by establishing student choice polices, due largely to the perseverance of ethically-minded students59. According to Animalearn’s survey of 150 biology departments at public colleges and universities60, two universities that responded, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the University of New Mexico-Albuquerque, have a formal student choice policy currently in place for undergraduate courses61,62,63.

Biology departments at six other colleges and universities responding to the survey indicate that they allow alternatives to dissection, but the policy is not formally written and/or made visible to current and prospective students on either university or departmental web pages, or in general Internet searches. These universities are, California State University- Bakersfield; California State University-San Bernardino; Florida International University; University of Colorado-Colorado Springs; University of Wisconsin-La Crosse; and University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point.

In addition to colleges and universities responding to the survey, we are aware of many other colleges and universities that allow alternatives to dissection64. To date, 28 colleges and universities have adopted formal or informal student choice policies, and many more are currently taking the steps to create them on their campuses. To find a list of those colleges and universities with student choice policies go to:

Animalearn has aided several students and student groups from colleges and universities pursuing policies on their campuses, including the University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign65, Virginia Commonwealth University66, and Hofstra University67. In 2007, Animalearn released a research study, later published with Dr. Lynette Hart from the University of California-Davis entitled “Guidelines for the development of student choice policies regarding dissection in colleges and universities: An ethnographic analysis of faculty and student concerns68.” This paper provides a template to assist college students who want to establish student choice initiatives. (See Sec. IV for an overview of how to help eliminate the harmful use of animals in education. See Appendix B for a guide to implementing student choice policies, and for a comprehensive description of the latest alternatives available for undergraduate and graduate education.)

Implementing a Student Choice Policy at Hofstra University

Animalearn has worked with many students from colleges and universities across the United States to establish student choice policies on their campus. In January 2007, Hofstra University, a private university in Hempstead, New York, established a student choice policy after years of hard work by students and supportive faculty members. Animalearn worked with the students from Hofstra University through the entire process, from proposal of the policy to institution of the policy.

Students in undergraduate biology classes at Hofstra wanted the opportunity to use alternatives to dissection and the Students’ Organization for Animal Rights (SOAR) worked with their advisor and the biology faculty and department chair to agree upon a policy. Biology faculty borrowed alternatives to dissection from Animalearn’s The Science Bank to assess the feasibility of various alternatives for their classes. There were also several meetings involving students, faculty, and Animalearn representatives to discuss the administrative scope of the policy.

The next step was to involve Hofstra administration to discuss the viability of a policy, who considered the information, letters of support from other universities, and scientific data regarding student choice policies and their pedagogical credibility. Students brought the issue to the student government, who put a referendum up to a vote to the Hofstra student body asking if students with religious and ethical objection to dissection should be allowed an alternative. Students voted overwhelmingly that students should be able to use an alternative to dissection. Finally, the University Senate passed the policy, giving students the right to an alternative to harmful animal use.

Determination and hard work on the part of SOAR led to a student choice policy that benefits all current and future students on campus who do not want to harm animals while pursuing their education. Hofstra’s Animal Dissection Policy is available at:

3. Veterinary Education Some veterinary schools require students to perform terminal surgery labs on healthy animals. Others have adopted humane and effective alternatives.An increasing number of veterinary students have also objected to harmful animal use in favor of humane alternatives (See Appendix B.1. for information on alternatives). One of the first veterinary students reported to object to the harmful use of animals in veterinary education was from the University of Georgia. In 1985, this student withdrew from the school to avoid the third-year survival surgery labs69. In 1987, two veterinary students filed a lawsuit against the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania after refusing to perform a required terminal surgery on healthy dogs70. These students, who were two of the first individuals to refuse to vivisect to obtain their veterinary degrees in the United States, prevailed and were able to complete their surgical training on dogs who were already scheduled for euthanasia for terminal medical conditions71. In 2002, the University of Pennsylvania eliminated terminal surgeries in its small animal curriculum72, following in the footsteps of Tufts University, which in the 2000-2001 academic school year became the first U.S. veterinary school to end small animal terminal labs73,74. In 2003, Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine in Pomona, California was established with a no harm approach to practicing veterinary medicine, completely eliminating the harmful use of animals in their curriculum and instead using cadavers of companion animals who are donated for educational purposes75,76.

Fortunately, many U.S. veterinary schools have adopted humane methods and are continuing to make change in this arena (See Appendix B.1. for information on alternatives). More than half of the 28 U.S. veterinary schools no longer require terminal surgeries in core courses, and many do not require them in elective courses77. For a list of veterinary medical schools that offer alternatives, go to

University of Georgia – College of Veterinary Medicine

In 2008, Animalearn worked with students and faculty at UGA to help them implement humane changes for animals used in the veterinary school. Several students there are opposed to the terminal dog labs and instead want to see humane alternatives such as cadavers in place. Also many students and faculty are behind the initiative to create a Shelter Medicine Program. In April 2008, UGA received a Maddie’s Fund grant for an externship, which gives students the opportunity to work alongside a full-time shelter veterinarian. In January 2009, several student groups at UGA sponsored a first ever College of Veterinary Medicine “Shelter Medicine Symposium” to generate more discussion about this topic. Students and faculty were strategic in helping to create a three-tiered campaign to decrease and ultimately eliminate the use of dogs in terminal surgery labs. This campaign includes, (1) creating a shelter medicine spay/neuter fourth-year senior surgical rotation; (2) implementing alternative surgical training vehicles that would aid student education and decrease the need for terminal surgical procedures as learning tools, i.e. cadavers; and (3) developing an educational memorial program (EMP).

Animalearn helped UGA students to identify ways to create these changes. For example, we supported their efforts by loaning them veterinary alternatives from The Science Bank and by giving them guidance regarding how to encourage the faculty to implement these viable teaching tools (See Appendix B). Animalearn also assisted in bringing to fruition two of the humane initiatives proposed by students and faculty there by providing grants for the Shelter Medicine program, which will become part of UGA’s College of Veterinary Medicine’s Fall 2009 curriculum, and the development of a digital DVD surgery tutorial to use as a teaching tool to help enhance the second-and third-year surgery curriculum.

The goal with the Shelter Medicine Spay/Neuter fourth-year senior rotation course at UGA is to increase the number of opportunities a student can have to perform small animal surgery on “recovery” shelter animals. In addition to benefiting humane education, the Shelter Medicine rotation enhances student surgical education and provides a much needed community service.

The idea for the DVD digital surgery program came after a student there researched alternative learning tools, which would decrease the number of terminal surgical training procedures. In that search, the student came across a series of DVD/digital media surgery tutorials for veterinary students developed by Michigan State CVM and UC Davis CVM. The student then met with several surgery professors at UGA about implementing similar videos into the surgery curriculum. Faculty were very interested, but indicated that UGA taught some of the procedures (feline/canine spay, neuter, laparotomy, splenectomy, cystotomy, etc.) with slightly different techniques than Michigan and UC Davis. Thus, the UGA CVM digital surgery tutorial for the sophomore and junior curriculum was born.

The response from UGA faculty and administration has been positive. K. Paige Carmichael, DVM, PhD., Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, reported that the digital DVD surgery tutorial will give students “the opportunity to pause, watch the procedure again and again will help our students become more confident and proficient in their skills.” MaryAnn Radlinsky, DVM, MS, Associate Professor in the Department of Small Animal Medicine and Surgery at UGA’s College of Veterinary Medicine, echoed Dr. Carmichael’s sentiments about the DVD project by adding that “the junior surgery experience for our students at the University of Georgia would be greatly enhanced by adding videos to the armamentarium of teaching tools available.”

Due to the efforts of UGA students, terminal dog labs were eliminated and replaced with canine cadavers in the UGA CVM junior or third-year surgery course in Fall 2008. While the junior surgery course still offers a terminal procedure (exploratory surgery) that is performed on young pigs who would be slated for slaughter, students who do not want to perform the terminal pig lab can utilize a canine cadaver (not ethically sourced). However, communications with UGA students indicate that the junior surgeries scheduled for fall 2009 may all be beneficial recovery procedures (spays/neuters), after informal discussion with faculty.

Fortunately, UGA is working to establish an Educational Memorial Program (EMP) for ethically sourced companion animal cadavers at the veterinary medical school. Late in 2008, UGA received a grant from the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA) to help purchase new freezers specifically for this purpose.

UGA is not completely free of harmful dog and cat use in education; however, the school is an example of how significant change can be made by one or more students to help animals.

4. Medical Education Throughout history, U.S. medical schools have typically used dog labs (lethal scholastic exercises performed by students) to teach basic physiology and pharmacology. In 1992, University of Colorado (CU) medical student Safia Rubaii filed a lawsuit against the school of medicine for not permitting her to use humane alternatives to the school’s terminal dog labs, after refusing to participate in some of these harmful labs due to her religious beliefs of doing no harm to animals78. Although the judge ruled against Ms. Rubaii in 199379, she did appeal the case and won80. Ms. Rubaii ultimately left CU, but in the appeal CU was ordered to pay her a substantial amount of money81. Fortunately in 2003, CU ended its terminal surgery labs on dogs82.

Most of the nation’s leading medical schools have developed alternatives to lethal dog labs.Today the trend in medical education is moving away from using ‘dog labs’ for demonstration purposes (See Appendix B)83. In fact, most of the nation’s leading medical schools have developed alternative methods for teaching these disciplines84. New York Medical College has been one of the last schools to end dog labs. According to Dr. Francis Belloni, the Dean of New York Medical College, his students now use echocardiograms to study heart function. The subjects used for this study are medical students, not live dogs. Dr. Belloni noted that students would “become just as good doctors without it [dog labs]85.” Nine U.S. medical schools continue to use live animal labs for medical education86.

Conclusion Upper-level high school biology classes, undergraduate courses, and human and veterinary medical training courses still commonly offer cat dissection, and occasionally utilize dogs as well87. Dogs are rarely dissected in high schools yet are often dissected in veterinary anatomy courses88. However, both dogs and cats are also used in veterinary and human medical training89.

Fortunately, more than 90% of U.S. medical schools have eliminated the use of live animals to teach human physiology and pharmacology, as well as surgical techniques90. Also, states and colleges are increasingly adopting student choice policies that allow students to choose humane alternatives to dissection and vivisection.

No matter what education level – high school, undergraduate, graduate, veterinary, or medical – recent history has proven that students can make a difference for dogs and cats and other animals used in education by encouraging their institutions to implement student choice policies and/or eliminate inhumane procedures altogether. (See Sec. IV for an overview of how to help eliminate the harmful use of animals in education. See Appendix B for a guide to implementing student choice policies, and a comprehensive description of the latest alternatives available for undergraduate and graduate education.)

45The American Anti-Vivisection Society sponsored the Miss B’Kind Club and registered to teach it in the Philadelphia school system starting in 1927.
46Bank, J., and Stephen L. Zawistowski. “The Evolution of Humane Education: Humane education teaches us to approach the world one starfish at a time.” ASPCA Animal Watch Fall (1994). ASPCA. 2 Nov 2008.
47Unti, Bernard Oreste. The Quality of Mercy: Organized Animal Protection in the United States 1866-1930. Diss. American University, 2002. Ann Arbor: UMI, 2002. 3048289.
48Current statute number is § 1003.47. Added by Laws 2002, c. 2002-387, § 140, eff. Jan 7, 2003. Amended by Laws 2004, c. 2004-357, § 84, eff. July 1, 2004. Prior Laws: Fla.St.2001, § 233.0674. Laws 1985, c. 85-70, § 1.Florida Student Choice Law. The 2008 Florida Statutes. 4 Feb 2009.
49Orlans, Barbara F. et. al. The Human Use of Animals: Case Studies in Ethical Choice. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. 209-221.
51California Student Choice Law. California Education Code Section 32255-32255.6.4 Feb 2009.
52Initially sponsored by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, this hotline is now operated by the National Anti-Vivisection Society.
53Winiarski, Kathryn. “BLACKBOARD; Dissection Hot Line Cuts It.” New York Times 6 Jan 1991.
55Animalearn. Laws and Legislation (K-12). Undated. Animalearn. 30 Dec 2008.
56Schaeffer, Crystal. “Legislative Empowerment in Schools: Student Choice”. AV Magazine Fall 2008. 10-11.
57The Humane Society of the United States. “Sarah Lawrence College Dissection Choice Policy.” 1994. HSUS. 15 Dec 2008
58Ducceschi, L., Hart, L., and N.Green. “Guidelines for the development of student choice policies regarding dissection in colleges and universities: An ethnographic analysis of faculty and student concerns.” Proceedings 6th World Congress on Alternatives & Animal Use in the Life Sciences AATEX Special Issue. (2007): 273-276.
59Animalearn. Colleges and Universities with Student Choice Policies. Undated. Animalearn. 23 Apr 2008.
60Ref. Intro (Collection of Info).
61University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Student Choice Policy for Undergraduate Courses. 5 May 2003. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. 7 Jan 2009.
62Information on whether the university has a formal student choice policy in place was obtained through web searches on university and departmental web pages, and in general Internet searches.
63Hepner, L. “Winning Alternatives to Dissection at the University of New Mexico.” InterNICHE. Undated. InterNICHE. 19 Mar 2009
64Animalearn. “Colleges and Universities That Do Not Have Policies, But Have Allowed Students to Use Alternatives (List Compiled by NAVS and AAVS)”. Updated 20 Aug 2006. Animalearn. 26 Jan 2009.
65Students Improving the Lives of Animals (University of Illinois Student Group). “EP.03.35, Report to the Senate on Alternatives to Dissection in Undergraduate Courses.” 5 May 2003. SILA. 30 Dec 2008.
66Virginia Commonwealth University Dissection Choice Policy. “Bill in Support of the Conscientious Maintenance of Non-Dissection Degree Paths for Virginia Commonwealth University Monroe Park Campus Undergraduate Students.” 21 Feb 2005. VCU. 30 Dec 2008.
67Hofstra University Animal Dissection Biology Policy. Undated. Hofstra University. 30 Dec 2008.
68Ducceschi, L., Hart, L., and N.Green. “Guidelines for the development of student choice policies regarding dissection in colleges and universities: An ethnographic analysis of faculty and student concerns.” Proceedings 6th World Congress on Alternatives & Animal Use in the Life Sciences AATEX Special Issue. (2007): 273-276.
69Rauch, Annette and Gary Patroneck. “The Impetus Behind the Development of Alternatives.” Alternatives in Veterinary Medical Education. AVAR Newsletter. Winter 2008.
70Pothier, Dick. “2 Penn Students Sue Over Animal Surgery.” Philadelphia Inquirer 17 Mar 1987.
71Hall, Lee. Interview with Dr. Gloria Binkowski and Dr. Eric Dunayer. “Vets who make a difference in the lives of domestic cats and dogs” Friends of Animals Actionline Newletter. Spring 2004. Friends of Animals. 2 Sep 2008.
72American Anti-Vivisection Society News Release. “University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine Lauded for Ending Terminal Animal Surgery Course.” 7 Aug 2002.
73Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. “Animal Use for DVM Training in Surgery.” Undated. Tufts University. 20 Oct 2008.
74Even if a school doesn’t have terminal labs for its mandatory small animal curriculum, its large animal curriculum and/or its electives may still rely on terminal labs. Also, the terminal labs might not be eliminated, just that students are provided the option of an alternative.
75Hymon, Steve. “‘No Harm’ Approach to Medicine.” Los Angeles Times 7 Oct 2003. Los Angeles Times 19 Dec 2008.
76Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine. Founding Principles. 5 Feb 2009.
77Patronek, Gary J. PhD., and Annette Rauch, DVM. “Systematic review of comparative studies examining alternatives to the harmful use of animals in biomedical education.” JAVMA. Vet Med Today: Reference Point Vol. 230:1. 1 Jan 2007. 37-43.
78Newcomer, Kris. “Religion Keeps Student From Experiments on Dogs A Doctor Cures.” Rocky Mountain News 24 Apr 1992.
79Mehle, Michael. “Judge Rules Against CU Med Student in Lawsuit Class Exepriment on Dog Didn’t Infringe on Rights of Buddhist, Court Says.” Rocky Mountain News 14 May 1993.
80News Staff. “Med Student Wins on Appeal.” Rocky Mountain News 15 Jul 1994.
81Balcombe, Jonathan. The Use of Animals in Higher Education. Washington D.C.: Humane Society Press. 2000.
82Kieswer, Kristine. Good Medicine. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. “University of Colorado Drops Dog Labs from Medical Training.” Summer 2003. Volume XII, Number 3. PCRM 2 Sep 2008.
83Wadman, Meredith. “Medical Schools Swap Pigs for Plastic.” Nature 7 May 2008. 453. 140-141.
84Harrison, Nancy. Doctors Against Doglabs. Undated. Doctors Against Doglabs. 9 Jun 2008.
85Bakalar, Nicholas. “Killing Dogs in the training of Doctors is to End.” The New York Times 1 Jan 2008. New York Times 2 Sep 2008.
86Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. “Medical School Curricula with Live Animal Laboratories.” 16 Mar. 2009.
87Orlans, F. Barbara, et al. “Dissection of Frogs: The Jenifer Graham Case.” The Human Use of Animals: Case Studies in Ethical Choice. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. 209-221.
88Decades ago, live dogs were used to demonstrate the toxicity of substances in veterinary pharmacology courses. However, that practice has ceased.
89Kittens are used to teach human pediatric intubation techniques to medical students and personnel.
90Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. “Medical Schools with Live Animal Laboratories.” Fact Sheet. 30 Jun 2008. PCRM. 18 Aug 2008.
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