“The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?”
Jeremy Bentham, English Philosopher (1748-1832)
Free The Dogs is a campaign whose goal is to end the use of dogs in research funded with taxpayer dollars by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). As taxpayers, we all have the right to object to the use of our money for the abuse of dogs.
Dogs are loved by millions of people around the world. That’s not surprising since they provide us with unconditional love, trust and loyalty. Dogs are the first ones to greet us at the door, and are thrilled and delighted to see us after even a brief absence. They are our friends and constant companions who are often considered family members. Some people refer to them as their children. According to the 2013–2014 National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, 47% of households in the U.S. have at least one dog.
Do Americans love and care for their dogs? USA Today reported that Americans spent a whopping “$53 billion on food, veterinary care, kennels and other services in 2012 . . . spending on services like grooming, boarding, hotels and pet-sitting grew nearly 10% during 2012 to almost $4.4 billion.”
Sadly, these sensitive, loving animals are exploited in research funded by the NIH as though they are nothing more than disposable test tubes or inanimate laboratory tools. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Annual Report indicates there were approximately 65,000 dogs used in research laboratories in the U.S. in 20101. Many people are unaware that they are personally financing, with their tax dollars, an utter disregard for, and betrayal of, man’s best friend.
Can you imagine your beloved dog caged in a laboratory, being implanted with cancerous tumors, having her cardiac and pulmonary systems manipulated to induce lethal medical conditions, dosed with harmful drugs, having tendons or bones intentionally broken, or forced to endure painful and unnecessary surgical procedures? Maybe she was even de-barked (a surgical procedure performed on a dog’s vocal cords to reduce the volume of their barking) so she wouldn’t cause disruption for the researchers.
Can you picture your loving dog enduring any of these procedures, then being sent back to an isolated metal and concrete cage, fearful, alone and suffering in pain, with no one to comfort him? Assuming he did not die or was not killed, perhaps he would again be sent back for more of the same the next day or the next week. Dogs may live under these terrifying conditions for months or even years.
Dogs are used in research because of their availability and size, and because they are easy to house and handle. Beagles are the most commonly used dog breed in research because of their friendly, docile, trusting, forgiving, people-pleasing personalities. How ironic that these precious beings are punished for having the very characteristics that endear them to our hearts. This is the ultimate betrayal of dogs who simply want to please us.
The NIH website lists hundreds of research projects that use dogs. These studies take place at approximately 140 universities and institutions, as well as over 100 pharmaceutical, bioscience and other private and non-profit companies. The research areas in which dogs are used are varied; for example, incontinence in aging, digestive physiology, cardiovascular studies, urinary tract issues, sphincter muscle removal, cancer, and tendon injuries.