New suppliers of animals for biomedical research are needed, U.S. agency says
"Class B" is a broad category of licensure by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that applies to individuals who buy and sell animals that they do not breed and raise. Currently there are about a dozen such dealers who provide dogs and cats for medical and veterinary research and training and the development of veterinary drugs.
"Immediate action" is needed to identify and develop new suppliers of these animals to avoid disruptions in research activity, according to the American Physiological Society (APS) in an Oct. 26 statement endorsing the NAS report.
"These animals remain critical for health research to alleviate serious and life-threatening conditions that afflict humans and animals," the APS says.
Most dogs and cats needed for research are bred for that purpose, but some non-purpose bred or "random source" animals also are needed because they have traits difficult to replicate in purpose-bred animals. These include very old animals or those with pre-existing health conditions or diseases that can't be artificially induced. Local animal-control facilities at one time made some of these animals available, but nearly two dozen states and many municipalities, including many where research is done, now have laws prohibiting that practice, the APS says.
The NAS report, entitled Scientific and Humane Issues in the Use of Random Source Dogs and Cats in Research, "found strong evidence of an ongoing need for random-source dogs and cats in several important areas of biomedical research," according to the APS statement.
The NAS also found that a number of USDA-licensed Class B dealers have a history of Animal Welfare Act violations. The NAS panel, which was charged with examining the use of random-source animals in research funded by the National Institutes of Health, recommended that NIH-funded researchers obtain animals from other suppliers. The NAS suggested purchasing them from USDA-licensed Class A breeders, animal-control facilities, hobby breeders and individuals willing to donate animals for research, but acknowledged that "additional efforts" will be needed to identify and/or develop new means of replacing the animals currently provided by Class B dealers.
While the NAS panel focused on NIH-funded research, the APS acknowledges that there are other needs for random-source animals, such as developing and testing animal-health products and medical devices, plus research funded by many entities other than the NIH.