From preventing polio to finding cures for cancer patients, animal research has saved countless lives.
Using animals in research is a concern to some; however, the benefits derived from the ethical, humane use of laboratory animals for biomedical research are huge. Nearly every major medical breakthrough in the last 100 years has been achieved by research with animals.
"These animals are heroes. Their contribution to discovering life-saving advancements in medicine and science-for both pets and humans-is enormous," said Jon Klingborg, DVM, president of the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA). "Thanks to the last century of animal research, we have achieved life-saving treatments for people and animals. As veterinarians, we are able to treat more ailments and prevent more diseases, and that allows us to keep our pets living longer and healthier."
Without animal research, millions of dogs, cats, birds, and farm animals would be dead from more than 200 diseases, including anthrax, distemper, rabies, feline leukemia, and canine parvo virus, according to Americans for Medical Progress (AMP), a nonprofit group that supports the responsible and humane use of animals in biomedical research. Today, those diseases are largely preventable, thanks to vaccines and treatments developed in animal research.
In human terms, research with animals has led to vaccinations against smallpox, measles, mumps, diphtheria, and tetanus; development of anesthesia, antibiotics, and insulin; use of cardiac pacemakers and heart bypass surgery; surgical advancements for organ transplants, hip replacements, and cataract surgery; and treatments for a host of diseases, including diabetes, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, and children's leukemia.
The CVMA supports the use of animal research when conducted in a responsible, humane manner for medical and scientific research where there are no non-animal alternatives. Federal law requires that animal testing be conducted before most clinical trials involving people are allowed.
Research animals are protected by a host of state, federal, and international laws. It is estimated that less than half-a-percent of research animals are dogs, cats, and primates. According to AMP, more than 95 percent of research animals are rats and mice bred for research studies.
In California, the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science promotes the safe and humane treatment of research animals in hospitals, universities, and research centers statewide. Its Northern California chapter has more than 800 members, including veterinarians, researchers, and educators.
"Looking back at what has been accomplished makes us even more hopeful that animal research will continue to yield life-saving treatments for ourselves and our pets," said Dr. Klingborg.