‘Random-source’ dogs, cats needed for medical research

In your Animal Welfare Special Report, Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) discussed concerns about the use of “random-source” dogs and cats in laboratories (“Unscrupulous dealers usher ‘random-source’ dogs and cats into labs,” July 28).

This was the topic of a recently released report by the National Academies of Science (NAS): “Scientific and Humane Issues in the Use of Random Source Dogs and Cats in Research.”

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The NAS report was critical of so-called Class B dealers and the effectiveness of USDA enforcement of certain portions of the Animal Welfare Act pertaining to them. The USDA licenses Class B dealers to purchase animals needed for research from a variety of sources such as hobby breeders, or pound animals destined for euthanasia. While some Class B dealers do what they are supposed to do, others have consistently failed to behave responsibly and ethically.

The NAS report pointed out that when Class B vendors comply with the law, they provide an important service by obtaining unwanted animals that would otherwise be killed in pounds and transporting them to research laboratories where they are needed for the study of human and animal diseases.

The NAS report also found that it is nearly impossible to get some types of cats and dogs from so-called Class A vendors. For example, Class A vendors that breed and raise research animals typically sell dogs and cats at 9-12 months of age. However, sometimes much older animals are needed to study diseases and to test drugs and treatments intended either for older people or for older animals. The body undergoes many changes as it ages, and the responses of the young can be quite different from those of older individuals. We can expect the demand for research involving older-age dogs and cats to increase in the future as the American population ages and the need to treat diseases of the elderly becomes more pressing.

Rep. Doyle stated that “most scientists now agree that dogs and cats acquired from random sources are not needed for research.” That is not what the NAS report said. To the contrary, the report reached the opposite conclusion: “Although random source dogs and cats represent a very small percentage of animals used in biomedical research, this small number is not commensurate with their potential value, and it is desirable to assure continued access to animals with random source qualities.”

The NAS report concluded that while random-source dogs and cats are vital for medical research, the Class B dealer system ought to be replaced with something better. These two conclusions have to be taken together. If Congress is serious about both eliminating Class B dealers and supporting biomedical research, then we must invest the time and money needed to develop a viable alterative source of random-source dogs and cats for medical and veterinary research.

Pittsburgh


Hypocrites have a government-run plan

From Norm Grudman


If there was any issue that sheds the light of day on congressional bribery, the healthcare bill is just that issue. … Lawmakers have government-run insurance for their families and themselves yet they don’t want that option for their constituents. The people they work for can’t have what their government gets. Hypocrisy at its height. To get reelected and get financing from the insurance industry, they lie about the plan and do the bidding of private corporations that give them money over the citizens they represent that give them their trust. Our government needs to be more transparent before we finally elect a corporation as our next president.

Delray Beach, Fla.