Expert Report

Scientific and Humane Issues in the Use of Random Source Dogs and Cats (2009)

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Random source dogs and cats -- those that come from the general population, rather than being bred specifically for biomedical research -- can be valuable models for studying certain types of diseases. Dealers who buy and sell random source animals, rather than breed them (known as Class B dealers), are licensed by the US Department of Agriculture to ensure animal welfare and appropriate acquisition of the animals, but without adequate enforcement, some fear that lost or stolen pets could end up in laboratories, or that the dealers may not uphold proper standards of care. In response to a request by Congress through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a critical evaluation of the need to use random source dogs and cats from Class B dealers in NIH-funded research, this report finds that random source dogs and cats may be desirable and necessary for certain types of biomedical research, but that it is not necessary to acquire them through Class B dealers, as there are adequate numbers of such animals from shelters and other sources.

Key Messages

  • Alternative options are currently available to fill the majority of NIH needs for various types of research dogs and cats: 1. Direct Acquisition from Pounds and Shelters; 2. Donation Programs; 3. Cooperative Pre-clinical Consortia; 4. Class A Dealers; 5. NIH-Supported Resource and Research Development.
  • Although the number of random source dogs and cats used in research is small and declining, they represent an important but relatively small asset to biomedical research. (in 2007 to 2008 approximately 4 percent of dogs and 1 percent of cats used in research were acquired from Class B dealers with a smaller percentage of those being random source animals from pounds and shelters).
  • Class B dealers may still provide a benefit in acquiring dogs and cats from diverse sources and conditioning them before resale for research.
  • The Committee found that it is not necessary to obtain random source dogs and cats for NIH research from Class B dealers, provided that alternative sources of animals with similar characteristics can continue to be assured.