Dogs, Testing, And Psychological Well-Being
The use of animals in laboratories in the U.S. is governed by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), first enacted in 1966. The AWA has had some amendments over the years, but these amendments have been infrequent and not always in the interests of animals. This article from 1991 looked at the welfare of dogs used in experiments and how laboratories can account for their psychological well-being. While the article is older, the information is no less relevant. Since 1991, there have been no significant amendments to the AWA as it pertains to animals used in labs. The only exception? A major change in 2002 that amended the act to exclude rats and mice. Dogs, however, are still covered by the AWA. This review of dog welfare in labs remains as applicable now as it was then. Mice and rats make up the vast majority of animals used in labs, but the public may not be aware that dogs are even used in research.
The review may be valuable for advocates on several levels. The document outlines the basics of the AWA, as well as the role of veterinarians in laboratories. The authors note some disagreement between vets and scientists: “both sides have differing opinions as to what housing conditions adequately provide for the physical and psychologic well-being of the animals” and according to them, “unfortunately, definitive data on what housing conditions adequately provide for a dog’s (or cat’s) well-being probably do not exist.” At the time this article was published, there was very little research into lab dog welfare. The authors say the AWA allows for only tiny spaces for dogs in labs (the length of the dog plus 6″ on each side) and very limited social contact. They also state that there is likely no one single regulation that can address the welfare of all dogs.