Use of random-source dogs and cats for research, testing, and education

The majority of dogs and cats used in biomedical research and testing are bred specifically for such use by USDA Class A licensees and are referred to as purpose- bred animals. However, there may be limited research and testing situations where there is a justifiable need for dogs and cats with other genetic and physical features not found in purpose-bred animals. Such animals may include random-sourcea animals.

Random-source animals are also used for limited veterinary and science education purposes. The carefully controlled use of random-source dogs and cats can contribute to improving the health and welfare of animals and humans. The decision to use such animals should always include rigorous consideration of the 3Rs principles of refinement, reduction, and replacementb.

The Institute for Laboratory Animal Research (ILAR) within the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) issued a report entitled, Scientific and Humane Issues in the Use of Random Source Dogs and Cats in Research (2009) that makes recommendations on the use of random-source dogs and cats in biomedical research. In recent years (on a recurrent annual basis), federal laws have prohibited the licensing of USDA class B dealerse as a source of random source dogs and cats for research, testing and education. Furthermore, NIH policies mandate research facilities obtain research dogsc and catsd only from Class A licensees or other legal sources for NIH funded research.

The AVMA believes there is justification for prudent and humane use of random-source dogs and cats in research, testing, and education, provided that:

  • The need for such dogs and cats, which type is most appropriate, and the number required to meet the needs of the protocol have been carefully determined and justified, and such use has been reviewed and approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee;
  • The institution conducting such research, testing, or education has met all local, state, and federal legal requirements and guidelines pertaining to the acquisition, care, and use of dogs and cats for these purposes, including all relevant Animal Welfare Act regulations and required holding periods;
  • Adequate safeguards are used to ensure that dogs and cats are obtained legally; and comprehensive measures are taken to optimize the health and welfare of dogs and cats;
  • In addition to any holding periods required by laws or regulation, institutions acquiring dogs or cats from other than USDA licensed dealers should hold the dog or cat for a period of an additional five full days before using the animal, not including the day of acquisition, excluding time in transit, after acquiring the animal;
  • A thorough evaluation of options has determined that Class A dealerse are not available and/or appropriate and alternative sources and models have been considered and are not available. Examples include:
    • purpose-bred dogs and cats for specialized areas of research;
    • existing research colonies (often established by donations from breeders or owners because of genetic defects);
    • client-owned animals (e.g., animals participating in approved carefully controlled and monitored veterinary clinical trials), with written informed consent;
    • donor programs, with written and witnessed owner consent;
    • other species including less sentient species, and non-animal models.
  • Animals obtained from pounds and shelters as cadavers have been humanely euthanized by or under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian in accordance with current AVMA Guidelines on the Euthanasia of Animals;
  • Live animals obtained from pounds and shelters are preferably those with a signed and witnessed consent by the relinquishing owner for use in research, testing, and/or education;
  • USDA Licensed Class Bb dealers are not used to obtain random-source dogs and cats, unless alternatives do not exist, and current law allows for their use.

a Animal Welfare Act regulations define random source as dogs and cats obtained from animal pounds or shelters, auction sales, or from any person who did not breed and raise them on his or her premises. Dogs are defined as any live or dead dog or any dog-hybrid, and cats are defined as any live or dead cat or any cat-hybrid.

bRussell, W.M.S. and Burch, R.L. 1959 (reprinted 1992). The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique. Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, Herts, England.

cNIH, 2013.Notice Regarding NIH Plan to Transition from Use of USDA Class B Dogs to Other Legal Sources.

d NIH, 2012. Notice Regarding NIH plan to Transition from use of USDA Class B Cats to Other Legal Sources

eUSDA APHIS, 2019. Licensing and Registration Under the Animal Welfare Act: Guidelines for Dealers, Exhibitors, Transporters, and Researchers.