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AnimalearnThe American Anti-Vivisection Society


Animalearn, the educational division of the American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS), serves as a resource for educators interested in implementing effective methods of humane science education into their curricula. In carrying out this mission, we travel to national education conferences, delivering workshops and conducting presentations on how teachers and professors can use the latest innovations in undergraduate and graduate life science, veterinary, and medical education. We also work with students who wish to obtain their life science, veterinary, or medical education without harming animals, and in conjunction with Dr. Lynette Hart1, published a template of best practices for students wishing to establish a student choice policy2 at their college or university3. Animalearn also houses The Science Bank, which is the largest free loan program in the United States for alternatives to dissection and vivisection for K-12, college, university, veterinary, and medical education. The Science Bank offers modern, humane alternatives to using animals, including CD-ROMs, models, mannequins, and simulators.

Since Animalearn’s inception in 1990, we have received many inquiries from educators and students about the origins of animals being used for educational purposes in the United States. They are often surprised to learn that dogs and cats—animals that many Americans have in their homes as pets—are not only used, but are also harmed and even killed for educational purposes. Many question where schools are obtaining these animals. Due to the increasing numbers of people being forced to surrender their pets4 to pounds5 because of the current foreclosure crisis in the United States, we have received questions about whether former companion animals are being sold for educational and scientific use. We found that available information to answer these questions was lacking and decided to investigate the acquisition and use of dogs and cats at public colleges and universities across the U.S.

After careful analysis, we present Dying to Learn: Exposing the Supply and Use of Dogs and Cats in Higher Education with the goal of providing a detailed look into how schools obtain dogs and cats, and what happens to our pets in campus labs. We believe that the evidence will be startling to anyone who shares a home with a beloved companion animal and who considers a dog or cat a part of the family. The findings point to failures in the system that seeks to provide reassurance to the public that animals are used appropriately and only under compelling circumstances in science, including science education.

Animalearn works to constructively engage with the educational community by providing resources and identifying solutions. In Dying to Learn: Exposing the Supply and Use of Dogs and Cats in Higher Education, we include educationally sound solutions to replace harmful use of animals in higher education. With the extensive array of high-quality alternatives to harmful animal use available, and the number of renowned institutions of higher education implementing them into their curricula, we encourage those colleges and universities still using animals to explore and use these alternatives. Never before have advances in modern technology offered so many opportunities for learning without having to harm companion animals or other animals. Embracing new, humane technologies teaches students an enduring lesson about the value of ‘life’ in life science education.


We wish to acknowledge the contributions of our colleagues at the American Anti-Vivisection Society, each of whom provided excellent suggestions and research support. In particular, we thank AAVS Executive Director Tracie Letterman, Esq. for her daily guidance and legal expertise regarding the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act, AAVS Policy Analyst, Crystal Miller-Spiegel, M.S., who was vital in helping to research and investigate university records which provided a wealth of information crucial in the findings of this report, and to a local veterinarian whose timely arrival as our resident consultant was an invaluable aid to our understanding of clinical veterinary education protocols.

We also wish to acknowledge the many people external to our organization who provided key information and patiently responded to our inquiries, including the colleges and universities who took the time to answer our survey and follow up questions. External reviewers helped us clarify our material and provided perspective on the value of this endeavor; their encouragement and specific comments were invaluable. Researching this information and making sense of it was very much a group effort and we thank all those who contributed to its completion. We dedicate this effort to our family companion animals, past and present, who enrich our lives beyond measure.

Laura Ducceschi, MA
Director, Animalearn

Nicole Green
Associate Director, Animalearn

April 27, 2009

1Dr. Lynette Hart. Professor in the Department of Population Health and Reproduction in the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California-Davis.
2Allowing students the right to choose an alternative to dissection or other animal use, supra pg. 40.
3Ducceschi, L., L. A. Hart, and N. Green. “Guidelines for Development of Student Choice Policies Regarding Dissection in Colleges and Universities: An Ethnographic Analysis of Faculty and Student Concerns.” AATEX, Proceedings from the 6th World Congress on Alternatives & Animal Use in the Life Sciences. 14 (2007) 21-25 Aug. 273-276.
4Dr. Stephen Zawistowski. Executive Vice President of ASPCA Programs. “Economic Forecast: One Million Pets May Lose Homes.” ASPCA. 5 Feb. 2009.
5For a definition of pound or shelter, see 9 C.F.R. § 1.1. We will be using the terms interchangeably throughout this report.
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