Animal Use in Education

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Animal Use for Educational Purposes and the Adoption of Alternatives

Animals have a long history of being used for dissection and vivisection. Such use has also historically instigated efforts to protect animals from abuse and end the use of animals in education.

In this section, we present the most current information regarding the use of dogs and cats for teaching purposes in public colleges and universities and the extent to which alternatives are being made available to students. We also examine the historical use of animals in education and illustrate the impact that student efforts can have in securing the right to use alternatives to animal use through student choice policies24.

Current Use of Dogs and Cats in Higher Education

Our investigation revealed that there are cruel and unnecessary uses of dogs and cats at colleges and universities continuing today in undergraduate, veterinary, and medical education (See Appendix A.).

Of 92 university records reviewed from 2005-2007 regarding the use of dogs and cats for teaching and training purposes:
52% are using live or dead dogs and cats.
26% are using live dogs and cats.

Of 150 university biology departments in a separate survey conducted in 2008 (20% response rate):
63% are using dead cats to teach anatomy and physiology.

Dogs and cats are used for teaching purposes by more than half of colleges and universities.Examples of dog and cat use in higher education include the killing of dogs and cats for dissection in undergraduate and graduate education; the use of live dogs in terminal surgery labs in veterinary and medical schools; the use of live kittens to teach pediatric intubation techniques25; and the acquisition of live dogs and cats from dealers, pounds, and shelters who are subsequently killed and used in veterinary clinical skills courses.

1. Dissection Universities usually purchase dog and cat cadavers from biological supply companies for teaching anatomy and physiology in life science dissection labs, even though there are many alternatives available (See Appendix B.1.). Cats are more commonly used than dogs to teach undergraduate dissection26, although dogs are also sometimes used. Biological supply companies often have contracts to purchase dog and cat cadavers from pounds and shelters in the United States and Mexico. Many of these cats and dogs were former pets. Biological supply companies make a significant profit27 from selling dog and cat cadavers to colleges and universities.

2. Clinical Skills Training Veterinary students learn clinical skills through direct handling of dogs and cats. There are benign ways to do this such as shelter medicine and assisting practicing veterinarians. Alternatives for learning specific skills are described in Appendix B. However, many veterinary medical schools purchase or acquire live dogs and cats from dealers, pounds, and animal shelters for use in clinical skills training classes, even though there are viable alternatives available (See Appendix B.1.)28. The dogs and cats usually arrive at the university and are killed prior to their use in training students. For example, a University of Georgia animal use protocol approved purchasing live dogs and cats from random source Class B dealers and acquiring animals directly from animal shelters. The dogs and cats are then euthanized for the clinical skills (emergency and non-emergency) laboratory29 in which students learn such procedures as fracture repair and chest tube placement.

3. Terminal Surgery Labs Some veterinary students, who are learning how to care for and save animal lives, are required to kill healthy animals as part of their education.Dogs who may once have been people’s pets continue to be killed by veterinary students in terminal surgery labs, even though there are effective surgery alternatives30 to replace these labs (See Appendix B.1.). Many veterinary students are surprised to learn that they are required to kill otherwise healthy dogs in order to learn to save the lives of other dogs. Procedures involved in terminal labs include euthanizing a healthy dog after he is used for teaching surgical procedures under anesthesia. Such labs are part of the core curricula or elective courses at various schools of veterinary medicine. For example, at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, students are currently taught emergency veterinary procedures in a laboratory on how to save animal lives. The dogs’ chests are cut open, and the students squeeze their beating hearts while euthanasia solution is injected into their veins. The procedure is intended to teach the students how to resuscitate a dying dog31. Unfortunately, these dogs do not recover. When animals are killed in surgery labs, students also miss out on the opportunity to learn post-operative care, including pain management, supportive care, assessing the healing process, etc. Such skills can be gained working with actual animal patients and are just as important as learning surgical procedures.

24See also Sec. IV for an overview of how to identify alternatives and implement student choice policies, as well as Appendix B, which provides greater detail.
25An example would be at University of Connecticut, Storrs, where records indicate that five kittens were acquired in 2007 for use in teaching pediatric intubation techniques. Four kittens were obtained in 2007 by the University of Oklahoma for similar use.
26This was indicated in Animalearn’s 2008 survey of biology departments.
27Please see Class B Dealers, specifically Biological Supply Companies. Infra pg. 30.
28Please see Skills Training alternatives for veterinary medical education. Appendix B1.
29UGA AUP #A2006-10224.
30Please see Surgical Simulation alternatives for veterinary medical education. Appendix B.
31Texas A&M’s Animal Use Protocol (AUP) #2006-116.
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