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Are Dog Labs Legal? PCRM Calls for Animal Care and Use Committee Accountability

“Excellent educational alternatives are widely available, including computer simulation programs, anatomical models, physiological videos, interactive media, and observed surgeries, and postmortem examinations.

“Since the Animal Welfare Act requires the use of reasonable alternatives to animals when available, any institution that continues to use animals for educational purposes is in violation of the law. We should be helpful to those who wish to consider alternatives, and relentless against those who do not.”

– John Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C.
Director, Cardiovascular Medicine, Cooper Clinic

For more than a decade, PCRM has encouraged medical schools to use teaching methods that do not include live animal laboratories. To date, approximately three-quarters of medical schools have adopted modern alternatives.

In working to reform the remaining medical schools, PCRM physicians have discovered that the animal labs still in use are not only less effective than modern teaching methods, they may violate federal animal use guidelines. The Animal Welfare Act requires that researchers explore viable alternatives in any experiment that will cause an animal pain or distress.

Typical animal labs in medical school involve anesthetizing dogs, pigs, and other animals and administering a variety of drugs that affect heart rate, blood pressure, and other vital signs before the animals are killed. In surgical labs, healthy animals undergo surgical procedures performed by inexperienced students. Clearly, however, alternatives do exist. Computer simulation programs, videos, and supervised clinical experiences are already being utilized in the majority of schools.

To ensure that better alternatives are continually explored, each institution using animals in experiments or course work must form an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), which usually includes a veterinarian, a practicing scientist, a non-science delegate, and an individual not affiliated with the university.

Heading the campaign to hold IACUCs accountable for their policies are PCRM physicians John Pippin, M.D., Nancy Harrison, M.D., and Sam Jacobs, M.D. Through their contacts with IACUCs, they are ensuring that schools are aware of their full responsibility to utilize available alternatives to animal experiments and the opportunities modern technology provides. Harvard, Yale, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, and other top-rated universities have complied with these regulations. PCRM doctors will remain vigilant until every other U.S. medical school conforms as well.

Many Med Schools Have Not Yet Dropped Animal Teaching Labs

Of the 126 U.S. medical schools, these 27 continue to use animal laboratories in medical student training:

  • Brown University School of Medicine
  • Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
  • East Tennessee State University James H. Quillen College of Medicine
  • Finch University of Health Sciences/Chicago Medical School
  • Georgetown University School of Medicine
  • Howard University College of Medicine
  • Loma Linda University School of Medicine
  • Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans
  • Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Meharry Medical College School of Medicine
  • Mount Sinai School of Medicine
  • New York Medical College
  • Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine
  • St. Louis University School of Medicine
  • State University of New York at Stony Brook
  • Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences School of Medicine
  • University of California, Irvine, College of Medicine
  • University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine
  • University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine
  • University of Illinois College of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign
  • University of Mississippi School of Medicine
  • University of Rochester School of Medicine
  • University of Tennessee, Memphis, College of Medicine
  • University of Texas Medical School at San Antonio
  • University of Virginia School of Medicine
  • University of Wisconsin Medical School


Spring 2003
Volume XII
Number 2

Good Medicine


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