Animal research helps pets, too

Campaign tries fresh approach toward controversial subject
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Foundation for Biomedical Research's campaign artwork
Image for the Foundation for Biomedical Research's animal research campaign

This past October, the Foundation for Biomedical Research launched its "Love Animals? Support Animal Research" campaign to educate the public about how animal research has improved the health and welfare of companion animals.

The campaign debuted Oct. 16 at the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science national meeting and is co-sponsored by AALAS, the AALAS Foundation, and the AVMA.

Similar public outreach efforts have focused on the benefits to human health derived from animal research, such as development of vaccines for polio and hepatitis A and B. "Love Animals? Support Animal Research" takes a new approach by highlighting a lesser-known issue: how animal research has led to innovations in veterinary medicine that help sick and injured cats and dogs.

Animal research has improved and saved the lives of countless companion animals, according to a promotional brochure, which cites the following examples: vaccines to prevent distemper, rabies, infectious hepatitis, tetanus, parvovirus, and feline leukemia; technologies such as CT, MRI, and ultrasonography to help diagnose potentially deadly diseases; lifesaving emergency care for dogs and cats injured by cars; advanced surgical procedures to treat joint and ligament problems in dogs and cats, to transplant organs, and to implant pacemakers; and nutritional products to help puppies and kittens grow into healthy adult animals.

In a Dec. 2 editorial on titled "Animal lovers should support animal research, not condemn it. Here's why," FBR President Matthew R. Bailey called out the contradiction inherent in lobbying to restrict or end medical research involving animals.

"That's counterproductive, be­cause animals are among the primary beneficiaries of such research. Consequently, animal lovers should be among the biggest supporters of animal medical research," Bailey wrote. He noted research at the University of Minnesota to develop a new treatment for hemangiosarcoma. With current treatments, fewer than half the dogs that develop hemangiosarcoma live more than six months, but clinical trials of the new treatment have seen six-month survival rates of 70 percent.

Bailey also highlighted Colorado State University's Flint Animal Cancer Center, where veterinarians are conducting long-term outpatient studies for a variety of new treatments. In 2016, the Food and Drug Administration approved a drug tested at the center that helped 80 percent of dogs with lymphoma.

In addition, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have identified a protein, present at high levels in cells from dogs with osteosarcoma, that formed tumors when injected into mice. Osteosarcoma affects more than 10,000 dogs a year, according to Bailey, with eight in 10 dogs surviving less than a year after diagnosis. Although what role, if any, this protein plays in tumor development is not yet known, future research could determine whether the protein is a marker of more aggressive disease or whether targeting the protein would improve outcome for dogs with osteosarcoma.

"Despite all this scientific progress—and the many animals that have benefited from it—nearly half of all Americans oppose research in animals, according to a recent Gallup survey," Bailey wrote. "Almost six in 10 voters want to cut federal funding for testing on dogs and cats."

"Animal research gives sick pets a second chance—and lays the groundwork for treatments that could save others down the line," Bailey argued.

A 2015 Gallup Poll found 32 percent of Americans believed animals should have the same rights as people, while 62 percent said animals deserve some protection but can still be used to benefit humans. The percentage of Americans who said they are "very" concerned about animal treatment ranged from 33 percent for animals used in research to 21 percent for animals in the zoo. When combined with those "somewhat" concerned about each, Americans were most concerned about animals in the circus, animals used in competitive animal sports or contests, and animals used in research, with just over two-thirds expressing concern about each.

More information about the campaign and the Foundation for Biomedical Research is available at