Sources of Animals Used in Research
Advertisements in science journals, specialized catalogs, and websites promote mice, rats, dogs, cats, primates, and a host of other animals bred or genetically engineered for whatever the researchers need. Along with cages, specialized equipment and food, unfortunately, animals in research labs are viewed as lab resources and tools to acquire data, rather than the unique animals with personalities that they really are.
Generally, animals used in research are the result of years of selective breeding, which ensures that they share a common genetic background, making them uniform in size and other characteristics. Most purpose-bred animals are young and small in size. Researchers may obtain purpose-bred animals through animal breeders and biological supply houses, known as Class A dealers. Genetically engineered mice and rats—animals that have, through gene manipulation, been bred to have or lack certain characteristics—are also available.
Often, researchers raise their own animal subjects in breeding colonies on the laboratory’s premises. Some research institutions, such as Johns Hopkins University, have so many mice and rats available for research that the main housing unit for these rodents is almost the size of a football field.
Where certain research projects demand genetically diverse animal subjects, researchers often turn to the local pound. By law, in some states and communities, researchers are allowed to procure animals from pounds for research purposes. These “random source” animals are usually former companion animals who are lost, abandoned or homeless. However, some municipalities and states, responding to the concerns of animal advocates like NAVS, have enacted pound seizure laws, which prohibit researchers from taking animals from pounds and shelters. In such cases, researchers turn to Class B dealers, who turn a profit by selling animals they have acquired from their owners, from pounds, auctions, and from other dealers to sell for research purposes.
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