In January, the AKC Board of Directors approved a new AKC canine legislation position statement on the Rehoming of Dogs Previously Used in Research. The policy statement addresses concerns about a new class of proposals at the state and federal levels that mandate that facilities that conduct animal research offer animal research subjects to external “rescue” organizations for adoption – without regard to the health of the animal, the appropriateness of placement, or the ownership rights of the research facility.
Background and Impact
Protecting biomedical research practices is crucial to developing new ways to identify, prevent, treat, or eradicate disease, and to improving human and canine health. According to the National Association of Biomedical Research, 95% of animals used in research, education, and testing are mice and rats, while less than one-half of one percent are dogs or cats.[i]
Some legislative proposals require all animals used in research, regardless of species, to be transferred to rescue organizations for resale as a pet. This is problematic because it fails to consider both the appropriateness of certain species to be resold as pets and potential health and safety risks. Many more recent proposals have focused on the resale/adoption of only dogs and cats. Both types of proposals fail to recognize rights of ownership with these animals and ignore sound adoption programs that are conducted directly by many the facilities and researchers most familiar with the individual animals. It is not unusual for a scientist who has worked with a dog in research to adopt the dog as a personal pet when the dog is no longer part of a study.
In 2019, AKC GR encountered an increase in this type of legislation federally with new Congressional bills (HR 2850, HR 2897, and S.2322); and in Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia. Oregon and Washington successfully enacted amended rehoming legislation.
AKC advocates for finding appropriate alternatives to the use of dogs in research. However, AKC recognizes that there are times when the use of dogs is crucial for the advancement of science. AKC’s current canine legislative position statement on Use of Dogs in Research addresses this:
The American Kennel Club® recognizes the invaluable contributions to both human and veterinary medical knowledge and practices that have resulted from medical research on animal subjects, including dogs. The American Kennel Club believes that all efficacious alternatives to the use of dogs should be explored before using dogs, that the research should clearly necessitate the use of dogs, and that standards of humane care and treatment of such dogs should be scrupulously observed. Also, the American Kennel Club strongly believes that individuals who utilize dogs in research should bear full responsibility for ascertaining the source of their dogs and for assuring that suppliers comply with federal, state and local regulations.
Adoption of a new position statement regarding responsible rehoming of research dogs establishes the policy direction that will guide AKC’s work with legislators, regulators, scientists, rescue groups, veterinarians, and other stakeholders to impact the consideration, amendment, or enactment of appropriate legislation.
The New Position Statement
The new position statement Rehoming of Dogs Previously Used in Research reads as follows:
The American Kennel Club ® (AKC) recognizes that protecting biomedical research practices is crucial to developing new ways to identify, prevent, treat, or eradicate disease, and to improve human and animal health. Where appropriate, retired healthy research and teaching animals should be rehomed, either through rehoming programs at the university/research facility, by groups with special expertise in rehoming research animals, or by qualified outside groups selected by the animals' owner.
[i] See National Association of Biomedical Research: https://www.nabr.org/biomedical-research/laboratory-animals/species-in-research/