BETHESDA, Md.—The American Physiological Society (APS; www.the-aps.org) announced today that it has endorsed the recommendation of a National Academy of Sciences* (NAS) report calling for the identification of new suppliers to replace Class B dealers as providers of random source dogs and cats for medical research.
"Class B" is a broad category of licensure required by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that applies to individuals who buy and sell animals that they do not breed and raise themselves. There are currently about a dozen Class B dealers who provide dogs and cats for medical and veterinary research and training and the development of veterinary drugs. The APS says that "immediate actions" are needed to identify or develop new suppliers of random source dogs and cats so that these activities may continue without disruption. A statement adopted by the APS Council on October 26, 2009 (http://www.the-aps.org/pa/resources/policyStmnts/paPolicyStmnts_dogscats.htm) underscores the importance of dogs and cats as research subjects: "These animals remain critical for health research to alleviate serious and life-threatening conditions that afflict humans and animals," the statement said.
Most of the dogs and cats needed for research are specifically bred for that purpose, but some non-purpose bred or "random source" animals are also needed because these animals exhibit traits that are difficult to replicate in purpose-bred animals. Very old animals or ones with pre-existing health conditions, and exposure to viruses, allergens, or parasites may be needed to study age-related conditions or diseases that cannot be artificially induced. At one time local animal control facilities were willing to make such animals available for research, but nearly two dozen states and many municipalities—including many where the affected research is being done—now have laws prohibiting that practice.
The APS statement points out that the NAS report, Scientific and Humane Issues in the Use of Random Source Dogs and Cats in Research, "found strong evidence of an ongoing need for random source dogs and cats in several important areas of biomedical research." At the same time, the NAS report also found evidence that a small number of USDA-licensed Class B dog and cat dealers had a history of recurrent Animal Welfare Act violations. The NAS panel, which was charged with examining the use of random source dogs and cats in research funded by the National Institutes of Health, recommended that NIH-funded researchers obtain random source dogs and cats from other suppliers. It offered as alternatives purchasing animals from commercial breeders (licensed by USDA as "Class A" dealers), animal control facilities, and hobby breeders. It also suggested that researchers obtain animals from individuals willing to donate them for research. However, the panel recognized that in some cases these alternate suppliers may be unable to provide the animals needed so it also suggested that "additional effort" by the NIH was needed to identify and/or develop new mechanisms to replace the animals currently supplied by Class B dealers.
Other needs for random source dogs and cats
The APS noted that the NAS panel had only focused on NIH-funded biomedical research and "did not address other needs for random source dogs and cats, such as the development and testing of animal health products and medical devices, medical research funded by entities other than the NIH, and medical and veterinary training." Consequently, the APS recommends that, "in addition to whatever steps NIH may take to meet the needs of its funded investigators, other provisions must be made to ensure that needs for random source dogs and cats in other fields can also be met."
*NRC (National Research Council) Scientific and Humane Issues in the Use of Random Source Dogs and Cats in Research. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2009. URL: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12641
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