Petition Ban the use of dogs for testing and research purposes in the UK

Dogs display a range of emotions, and their cognitive abilities are complex and advanced. Dogs in laboratories are forced to endure not only psychological trauma due to their restrictive environment but can also undergo harmful experiments that cause pain and suffering.

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In 2022, the number of dogs experimented on in Great Britain was 4,122. Most are used in regulatory procedures for testing the safety of products and devices for human medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine. An All-Party Parliamentary Group has acknowledged that 92% of drugs fail in human trials despite being tested on animals. Given the low scientific value of these experiments, combined with major advances in non-animal methods (NAMs), we believe testing on dogs should be banned, in the same way as for Great Apes since 1997.

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Parliament debated this topic

This topic was debated on 19 February 2024

Watch the petition 'Ban the use of dogs for testing and research purposes in the UK' being debated

Government responded

This response was given on 6 December 2023

The government does not agree to the proposed ban. Testing would continue in other countries. The UK still requires such data to ensure the safety of medicines before testing in humans.

While there is a drive to replace the use of animals in scientific procedures with suitable non-animal alternatives, the carefully regulated use of animals in scientific research remains necessary to protect humans and the wider environment. The Government therefore does not agree to ban the use of dogs for testing and research purposes in the UK.

The use of animals remains important for understanding how biological systems work, in the development of safe new medicines, treatments and technologies, and in testing chemicals. Therefore, our current approach is to actively support and fund the development and dissemination of techniques that replace, reduce and refine the use of animals in research (the 3Rs), and to ensure that the UK continues to have a robust regulatory system for licensing animal studies and enforcing legal standards.

The use of animals in science is highly regulated, including a three-tier system of licensing which licenses each establishment, project and individual involved in performing regulated procedures involving animals. All establishments are required to have dedicated individuals, including veterinary surgeons with legal responsibilities for the care and welfare of animals, and an ethical review body, which reviews any proposals for the use of animals and promotes the 3Rs of animal use. The UK Home Office regulator conducts an integrated assessment of the compliance of all licence holders including on-site inspections. The Government has published and enforces standards for the care and accommodation of all animals bred, supplied or used for scientific purposes.

The UK has the highest welfare score in the G7 according to the world Animal Protection Index and some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world. Since the 2021 publication of the Action Plan for Animal Welfare, we have delivered key manifesto commitments: we have increased the penalties for those convicted of animal cruelty, passed the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022 and launched the Animal Sentience Committee.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) requires testing on a suitable animal model by developers seeking regulatory approval, in the development of certain new medicines. The MHRA aligns with international regulatory bodies and the pharmaceutical industry in this position. Following development of the drug thalidomide where testing in pregnant rodents did not identify it as a teratogen, the requirement to use a second mammalian species (a non-rodent) was implemented for most testing to better identify toxicity of relevance to humans. It should be noted that the MHRA does not require all medicines to be tested, by developers, on two species as some drugs lack their primary mode of action in animal species other than primates. However, most drugs do retain their activity in animal species and safety testing in a second species is therefore required for these drugs, with dogs being one of the species that can be used. The MHRA does not itself use dogs in scientific procedures.

Animal testing reduces harm to humans by preventing testing of drugs not suitable for human use. In addition, a large proportion of the drugs that fail in clinical trials do so on efficacy grounds, that is that confirmatory clinical trials do not show the intended clinical benefit. Signals from safety pharmacology or animal toxicity studies are key in identifying the clinical monitoring and determining the starting and maximum dose levels used in clinical trials.

Once there is initial clinical evidence of safety, typically generated under these conditions of close monitoring, there is more extensive clinical testing into whether the drug is effective at treating patients and whether this use is safe. Whereas clinical use may continue for years, depending on the nature of the patient’s disease, toxicity testing in dogs is limited in duration: in the UK and European Union, this period is 6 months.

The Government is supporting and accelerating advances in biomedical science and technologies to reduce reliance on the use of animals in research and importantly to avoid some of the scientific limitations of animal models of human diseases. This includes stem cell research, cell culture systems that mimic the function of human organs, imaging and new computer modelling techniques.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is strongly committed to the 3Rs and provides core funding for the National Centre for 3Rs (NC3Rs), which works nationally and internationally to drive the uptake of 3Rs technologies and ensure that advances in the 3Rs are reflected in policy, practice and regulations on animal research. Since it was established, the NC3Rs has invested £89.3 million in research grants and almost £34 million in contracts through its CRACK IT Challenges innovation scheme to UK and EU-based institutions, mainly focusing on new approaches for the safety assessment of pharmaceuticals and chemicals that reduce the use of animals.

Department of Health & Social Care

Animal testing petition debate: Government makes new announcements

MPs debated this petition on Monday 19 February.

The debate was opened by Elliot Colburn MP, a member of the Petitions Committee. At the end of the debate, the Government made several announcements about the future of animal testing.

What are petitions debates?

Petitions debates are ‘general’ debates which allow MPs from all parties to discuss the important issues raised by one or more petitions and put their concerns to Government Ministers.

Petition debates don’t end with a vote to implement the request of a petition. This means that MPs did not vote on animal testing at the end of the debate.

The Petitions Committee can only schedule debates on petitions started on petition.parliament.uk

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