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Dog Health & Medicine

For Dogs Used in Research, a New Leash on Life

For Dogs Used in Research, a New Leash on Life

It’s a particularly fraught conundrum. On one hand, using dogs in laboratory research has led to improved cancer treatments, the discovery of insulin, the development of the pacemaker, more effective pharmaceuticals, and the heart-lung machine used in open-heart surgery — advances that in many cases have helped dogs themselves as well as people. On the other hand, the sturm and drang has intensified between the 44 percent of Americans who live with dogs as pets and the researchers who depend on them to improve health. No matter how much medical good lab dogs do, more and more people see their dogs as family members and do not like the idea of their pets’ species mates having to live in cages and be subjected to possibly dangerous, toxic, and sometimes painful treatments — even for the noble cause of medicine. Perhaps that’s part of the reason that in 1979, some 211,000 dogs were used in biomedical research and in 2016, 61,000. (For perspective, more than 3 million dogs enter shelters each year, according to the ASPCA.)

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