NCBI Bookshelf. A service of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

National Research Council (US) Committee on Scientific and Humane Issues in the Use of Random Source Dogs and Cats in Research. Scientific and Humane Issues in the Use of Random Source Dogs and Cats in Research. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2009.

Cover of Scientific and Humane Issues in the Use of Random Source Dogs and Cats in Research

Scientific and Humane Issues in the Use of Random Source Dogs and Cats in Research.

Show details


The ancient Indian fable of the Blind Men and the Elephant describes a group of blind men who each touch a different part of an elephant and, when they compare their individual impressions of the animal before them, discover that they are in complete disagreement. While assorted versions of this fable vary about the contentiousness of the debate and how it is resolved, the primary lesson is that opinions can differ among individuals. The secondary message is that differences must be resolved in order to reach consensus. Such were the challenges of this committee.

The National Academies endeavor to appoint committees that represent a broad range of perspectives and expertise in order to accomplish a fair and balanced study, and this committee was no exception. But what seemed to be a relatively straightforward task in determining the desirability and necessity of random source dogs and cats from Class B dealers for National Institutes of Health (NIH) research turned out to be far more complex than the committee initially realized. The complexity goes back to the very origins of medical research and the animal protectionist movement, and is steeped in the American public’s emotional ties to dogs and cats (which Frank Loew1 termed “America’s Sacred Cows”) and changing trends in public attitudes toward research using these familiar animals. The American public has insisted that their pets be protected, resulting in passage of the original Animal Welfare Act in 1966, with several subsequent revisions. The enforcement arm of the Act, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), has also repeatedly amended its Animal Welfare Regulations to better enforce the Act. Despite these efforts, infractions continue, including recent egregious ones that sparked renewed concern by the public and Congress, which was the impetus for convening this committee.

In contrast to the emotion and conviction that pervade public sentiment toward dogs and cats, the scientific community views the “elephant” rationally. The U.S. dog and cat population, with its many breeds and numbers, represents a rich resource for advancing medical knowledge through discovery and use of models with homology to many human diseases.

The panel of experts on this committee represented a broad spectrum of perspectives, and endeavored to approach its task without bias, despite strong and admittedly emotional personal opinions. As Chairman of this committee, I was impressed that its members set aside their individual differences in order to reach consensus, and as a result were able to factually describe the entire elephant, with all of its complexity.

The committee acknowledges with appreciation a number of individuals who provided input and testimony from their varied perspectives for the committee’s deliberations. At the first meeting, in Washington, DC, on October 7, 2008, the following individuals presented information to the committee:

Kimberley Cohen, Covance

W. Ron DeHaven, American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)

Jerry DePoyster, USDA/APHIS

David A. Kass, Johns Hopkins University

Cathy Liss, Animal Welfare Institute

Stacey Pritt, Covance

Margaret Snyder, NIH sponsor and contact person

Bill Yates, University of Pittsburgh

The following additional individuals presented information to the committee during its January 12, 2009, meeting in Washington, DC:

Stephen O’Brien, National Cancer Institute, NIH

Robert Willems, USDA/APHIS

Others who provided invaluable assistance to the committee include:

Chester Gipson, USDA/APHIS

Jodie Kulpa-Eddy, USDA/APHIS

The committee also received written material submitted for consideration by the American Physiological Society, the Humane Society of the United States, and individuals with business or personal interests in the subject of the committee’s deliberations. In addition, the committee received information from several Class B dealers in response to specific questions posed by the committee.

The draft of this report was reviewed by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the Report Review Committee of the National Research Council (NRC). The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the committee in making its published report as sound as possible, and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberation process. The committee thanks the following individuals for their review of the draft report:

B. Taylor Bennett, Management Consultant

Larry Carbone, University of California—San Francisco

Jerry Collins, Yale University

Linda Cork, Stanford University

W. Ron DeHaven, American Veterinary Medical Association

Betty Goldentyer, U.S. Department of Agriculture

David A. Kass, Johns Hopkins University

Hilton Klein, Taconic

Kathy E. Laber-Laird, University of South Carolina

Scott Marshall, Marshall BioResources

Howard G. Rush, The University of Michigan

Marty Stephens, The Humane Society of the United States

Victoria Voith, Western University

Craig L. Wardrip, The University of Chicago

Bill Yates, University of Pittsburgh

The review of the report was overseen by:

Peter Ward, University of Michigan

Peter Raven, Missouri Botanical Garden

Appointed by the NRC, these individuals were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring Committee and the institution.

I extend my sincere appreciation to the members of this Committee, who invested considerable time, effort, and interest in this report. Although we had our distinct perspectives on “the elephant,” the individual members always remained respectful of one other and worked as a team with a unified concern for animal welfare. In addition, I acknowledge the assistance of Christine Henderson. This was her first effort at assisting with an Academy report, and I trust not her last.

Stephen W. Barthold, Chair

Committee on Scientific and Humane Issues in the Use of Random Source Dogs and Cats in Research



Personal communication from the late Franklin Loew, DVM, PhD, Diplomate of the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine, member of the Institute of Medicine, former Dean of Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine and Cornell School of Veterinary Medicine, past President of Becker College, research scientist, and advocate for research animal welfare.

Copyright © 2009, National Academy of Sciences.
Bookshelf ID: NBK32667


  • PubReader
  • Print View
  • Cite this Page
  • PDF version of this title (3.4M)

Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...