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AnimalearnThe American Anti-Vivisection Society


Companion animals hold a special place for a significant portion of the American public, sharing our homes and trusting us to look after their interests. Animalearn’s investigation, however, uncovered shocking findings that should disturb the animal lover and tax-payer alike.

Public colleges and universities are partially funded by tax-payer money378, and making expenditures to purchase dogs and cats, many of whom were once someones’ pets379. These former companions are being used to teach undergraduate biology, veterinary medicine, and human medicine. The dogs and cats are coming from unethical sources, many with a history of violations and inhumane treatment. Making matters worse, the structures put in place at educational institutions, as required by law, to prevent cruel and unnecessary use of animals are failing to provide effective oversight.

Fortunately, numerous humane, effective, and cost-efficient alternatives exist that can replace the harmful use of animals in education entirely. Concerned students, faculty, administrators, and members of the public have a variety of options available to ensure that no animal is harmed for undergraduate, veterinary, or medical education. Indeed, universities are increasingly taking steps to eliminate animal use from their curriculum, but much more needs to be done.

Our report provides the most current information about the acquisition and use of dogs and cats by publicly funded higher education institutions, as well as comprehensive resources for implementing alternatives to animals use. Based on our investigation, we present the following findings and recommendations:

1. Schools are engaging in harmful use of dogs and cats for teaching purposes. Findings: Schools are harming and killing dogs and cats to fulfill educational objectives that can be met by alternatives. We discovered teaching exercises, such as terminal surgery labs at veterinary and medical schools in which dogs are killed following the procedure; clinical skills training labs for veterinary students, which involve euthanizing live dogs or cats in order to teach skills to students; and animal dissection, which involves using the cadavers of cats, dogs, and other animals to teach anatomy and physiology. Many animals are killed specifically for students to use, even though there are viable alternatives available that are being used effectively by other schools (See Appendix B).

Of 92 university records reviewed from 2005-2007 regarding the use of dogs and cats for teaching and training purposes: 52% are using live or dead dogs and cats. 26% are using live dogs and cats.

Of 150 university biology departments in a separate survey conducted in 2008 (20% response rate): 63% are using dead cats to teach anatomy and physiology.

Recommendations: Animalearn recommends that these schools replace the harmful use of animals with alternatives. This can be achieved by:
  • Developing student choice policies to allow alternative use. (We provide a guide to implementing student choice policies and a sample of an ideal student choice policy in Appendix B)
  • Creating curricula that identify alternatives as the default procedures and include therapeutic uses of animals (e.g. shelter medicine programs) and use of client-donated cadavers for dissection. (We provide a comprehensive description of the latest alternatives available for life sciences, veterinary, and medical education in Appendix B)
  • Broadening development, funding, and distribution of alternatives.
  • Providing educators with training opportunities in identifying and using appropriate and effective alternatives.
2. Schools are acquiring dogs and cats from inhumane sources. Findings: Schools are obtaining animals from both Class A and B dealers (See Appendix A). Many of these dealers have consistent AWA violations, including falsifying animal records and providing inadequate animal care resulting in routine animal suffering and distress. In addition, schools are going directly to animal pounds to acquire animals, a process commonly called “pound seizure.”

Recommendations: Animalearn recommends that random source animals not be used in education. This includes a prohibition on acquiring animals from Class B random source dealers, animal shelters/pounds, or international pounds. This random source animal prohibition should be part of federal law and state law, as well as included in institutional policies. USDA should exercise its authority by revoking and refusing to renew licenses for Class B random source dealers that have consistently violated the law. Rather than acquiring animals from random sources, Animalearn recommends that any animals used for educational purposes be ethically-sourced and used in procedures beneficial or therapeutic to the animal. In addition, Animalearn recommends that animals should not be bred for educational use because it is wasteful and promotes a disregard for life instead of fostering compassion.

378 State colleges and university operating budgets indicate a sizeable percentage comes from public financing.
379LaVonne, Meunier D. “Selection, Acclimation, Training, and Preparation of Dogs for the Research Setting.” ILAR Journal 47(2006): 326-347.
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