Facts + Myths
Myth: Cats, dogs, and primates are the animals most used in research.
- Fact: Approximately 95% of the total number of animals needed for medical and scientific inquiry in the U.S. are rodents.
Most of the animals needed for medical and scientific inquiry in the U.S. are rodents (for example, rats and mice), and they are specifically bred for this purpose. Dogs, cats, and nonhuman primates together account for less than 1% of all animals necessary for medical research. A wide variety of other species make up the remaining 4%, from eels to armadillos, zebrafish to frogs.
Myth: Research animals are abused and mistreated.
- Fact: Good science and good animal care are inseparable.
If animals are not well treated, the science and knowledge from their studies will not be trustworthy and cannot be replicated, both important hallmarks of the scientific method. Our researchers are strong supporters of animal welfare, and view their work with animals as a privilege. They are legally, and morally, obligated to ensure the health and well-being of all animals in their care in strict adherence to federal and state regulatory guidelines and humane principles, and to ensure that our animals are involved only in productive and meaningful studies.
Myth: Animal research is scientific fraud, since animals and humans are different.
- Fact: There are many similarities between humans and animals.
For example, chimpanzees share more that 99% of DNA with humans, and mice share more than 98%! Animals are susceptible to many of the same health problems as humans – cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, to name a few. Research with animal species has provided much of what we know about disease progression, care, treatment, and cure. For example, mice have significantly contributed to the advances in the treatment and survival of breast cancer; zebrafish are excellent models for the study of hemophilia; and cats have helped us know more about disorders such as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), sleep apnea, and epilepsy.
Myth: Animal research is no longer necessary because there are non-animal alternatives to animal experiments.
- Fact: Researchers are committed to the search for alternatives to animal use whenever possible, for ethical, humane, and economic reasons, and a wide variety of alternative techniques are actively utilized.
Such alternatives include cell-culture techniques, animal or human serum (a derivative of blood), and computer modeling, among others. All together, these alternative research methodologies play an important and growing role in biomedical research. They cannot, however, reproduce the interactions of an intact, whole-living biological system provided by laboratory animals, nor can they reveal potential complications from a drug designed to treat one condition on other organs and systems.
Legally, animal use is a required part of drug development. Current U.S. federal laws and regulations require proof of safety and effectiveness through testing in animal models before any human studies (clinical trials) are allowed to begin. No new drug may be prescribed in the United States without successful completion of human clinical trials and approval by the FDA. With all the promise and information alternatives to animal-based research offers, it cannot yet fully replace whole-animal models in any comprehensive fashion.
Myth: Animal testing debates argue that animal experiments are needlessly duplicated.
- Fact: Researchers are committed to preventing any unnecessary duplication of experiments.
The rigorous scientific peer review of research proposals, extensive literature searches, and the study of previous experiments helps researchers prevent duplication. In addition to the ethical imperative to avoid duplication, there are economic incentives as well. Animal research is expensive and avoiding duplicate experimentation is cost-effective as well as ethically sound. Competition for funding also ensures that redundant experiments are unlikely to be approved, that projects have been evaluated to determine whether animals are necessary, and that the absolute minimum number of animals is used.
Myth: Millions of stolen pets are sold for research.
- Fact: Animals used for research do not come from random animal dealers who steal dogs and cats for research.
In California, dogs and cats needed for medical research are obtained from specialty laboratory animal breeders, who are registered with the USDA. These specially bred animals are chosen for their genetic make-up, health condition, and breed, something that could not be achieved using animals from pounds or shelters, or from individuals with non-laboratory-bred animals. All dogs and cats must have paperwork that clearly demonstrates their point of origin, to ensure and prove that these animals have never been pets.