Drug-Testing Dogs Will Go Up for Adoption, Not Euthanization

(Bloomberg) -- Developing veterinary medicine for pets has often meant testing the experimental drugs on dogs -- with a sometimes morbid ending for the canines involved.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Friday that it plans to study a new model that will result in fewer animal deaths, and put about two dozen beagles up for adoption.

The FDA study will examine antiparasitic medicine for dogs -- such as a dewormer -- and will test it for effectiveness by taking a blood sample, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement. That would be a far less gruesome end than current practice, in which the dogs are killed and dissected to check their gastrointestinal tract.

The agency plans to use data generated from the tests to establish a benchmark for how drugs are absorbed in dogs’ blood, potentially allowing makers of animal drugs to use models instead of experiments on live dogs that sometimes included euthanization.

“We expect to be able to use these data to develop informatics tools that can model the absorption of drugs in the future, rather than requiring the drugs to be tested on live dogs,” said Gottlieb.

The FDA has been exploring ways to reduce reliance on animal studies. In January, it started the Animal Welfare Council after terminating a nicotine study in which four squirrel monkeys died.

The FDA’s modeling test will be run in 27 beagles, according to a white paper describing the plan.

“The dogs will receive regular veterinary care, including vaccinations and other preventive care, so that they remain happy, well-socialized and healthy,” Gottlieb said in the statement. “At the conclusion of the study, the dogs will be retired for adoption as pets.”

The agency estimated that the new modeling “will likely result in saving more than three-quarters of the animals otherwise required. In a 2-5 year period, that equates to approximately several hundred animals.”

About 60,000 dogs were used in human and veterinary research and testing in the U.S. in 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The majority of dogs used in research, close to 75 percent, are for pharmaceutical purposes, the National Anti-Vivisection Society says.

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