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The Newsroom: Issues : Dogs in Laboratories

Dog Labs: Medical Miseducation
By Heather Moore
Staff Writer People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

Anti-Vivisection Resources

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights

National Anti-Vivisection Society

American Anti-Vivisection Society

New England Anti-Vivisection Society

Links to Anti-Vivisection Organizations and Campaigns

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

I've never met the man who saved my dog's life. I don't know his name or anything about him--but I think of him often. He was compassionate and courageous enough to rescue an innocent, doe-eyed dog from his physiology class, where she was about to be tied down by her feet--with her stomach sliced open and her rib cage exposed--so that undergraduate students could callously watch her die. She was just minutes away from death when that brave, wonderful man scooped her up and walked out the door.

Unfortunately, many other dogs aren't so lucky. Although "dog labs" have been illegal in the United Kingdom for several years, thirty-three of the 126 medical schools in the United States still include dog labs in their curricula.

The most prestigious medical universities, such as Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Columbia, and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, have abandoned cruel animal laboratories, but the Medical College of Wisconsin, Georgetown University School of Medicine, New York Medical College, Brown University School of Medicine, and others, continue to use archaic dog labs to train medical students.

Helping or Hurting?

"First, do no harm," Hippocrates' Oath, is the credo of the medical profession, yet students are taught to harm-not heal-the very first "patients" they ever encounter. Each year, thousands of dogs are strapped to tables and cut open so that medical students can view their hearts under a variety of conditions. Inexperienced students are often encouraged to perform painful, invasive surgeries or inject various drugs to make the dogs' hearts beat faster or their muscles contract.

Although given anesthesia, many dogs "wake up" and suffer stress and trauma during sloppy, improperly handled procedures. For example, students who were responsible for monitoring anesthesia at Louisiana State University Medical School have admitted that they had "no clue" what they were doing and, as a result, dogs awoke during procedures and began crying out in pain.

Many of the dogs used in these horrific labs were once trusting companions who simply got lost-or stolen-from their families. On many occasions, class B dealers, those licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture to buy and sell animals to laboratories, have been found guilty of dog theft and/or obtaining animals by other fraudulent means.

Animal shelters in certain states are required to turn over homeless dogs to government-run facilities for medical experiments. This process is known as pound seizure. (For more information on pound seizure, please read PETA's factsheet). Proponents of pound seizure claim that the dogs would be killed anyway. This is a shameful excuse. In shelters, friendly, playful dogs have a chance of being adopted into loving homes. Those who aren't so fortunate are quickly and painlessly euthanized--not confined, traumatized, and experimented on.

A Better Way

A good doctor knows more than just physiology, pharmacology, and surgery. Dealing with patients means listening, counseling, and caring. Live animal laboratories can desensitize students to suffering--quite the opposite of what people want from a doctor.

Fortunately, there are more effective, relevant, and humane ways to learn about human anatomy and physiology than by studying canine anatomy. Students can gain valuable experience by observing and assisting (under very close supervision) human procedures, as well as by studying cadavers, state-of-the-art computer simulators, CD-ROMS, models, videotapes, and textbooks. These options are less expensive than dog labs and allow for a variety of uses and repeated practice.

Medical school does not have to be a killer. Harvard Medical School students observe actual human heart bypass surgeries-training that is far more life affirming than watching a healthy animal die needlessly. According to Dr. Michael D'Ambra, the cardiac anesthesiologist who directs Harvard's operating room program, "The only thing a student can do in a dog lab that we don't cover in the operating room is kill the animal."

Dr. Neal Barnard, M.D., president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PRCM) in Washington D.C. believes that, "Medical students learn more about human physiology and pharmacology from studying human patients undergoing necessary surgeries...Animal labs don't teach medical procedures that prepare students to see human patients. They simply demonstrate known effects of pharmacological or physiological agents on certain animals."

PCRM provides a list of U.S. medical schools that do and do not have animal labs as well as information on alternatives to live animal labs.

PCRM also offer tips for both medical students and the general public on ending live animal laboratories. For more information, visit: Ending Live Animal Laboratories What You Can Do

Of course, medical colleges around the globe continue to use animals for basic research. Countless other colleges, universities, government institutions and facilities experiment on animals for a variety of ridiculous reasons. To learn more about animal experimentation and find out what you can do to help, please see With your help, other animals will no longer be used as living test tubes and walking pin cushions.

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