How many dogs are used in research and testing?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), laboratories reported having approximately 67,000 dogs in their care in 2017. The vast majority of dogs were used for research and testing; approximately 6,500 were held or used for breeding.

View a Map of the Number of Dogs Used in Research and Testing Per State

View a List of U.S. Laboratories that Use Dogs in Research and Testing

Back to top

What is the difference between research and testing?

Testing aims to determine how a substance, ingredient or device will affect human health. Dogs used for testing are fed quantities of the test substancesuch as a weed killer or a new medicine under developmenton a daily basis for months and observed for harmful effects. Dogs can receive these substances in their food, via pills or, in some cases, through force-feeding. The dogs are eventually killed so that their tissues and organs can be examined. Dogs used to test medical devices or other products are implanted with pacemakers or dental implants and typically killed after the test period is over.

Research is used to understand how the human body works and to find treatments in areas such as infectious disease, psychology and oncology. Dogs may be specially bred to have a disease, such as muscular dystrophy. In other cases, healthy dogs will be operated on to give them symptoms of conditions like heart disease or to remove or damage some of their organs, and then further experimented upon. They are typically killed after the research is over.

Back to top

What kind of research and testing are dogs used in?

Dogs are used to test the safety of drugs, pesticides, medical devices and other products. Dogs are also used in a wide range of research areas, including cardiac, neurological, respiratory and dental research.

Back to top

What kinds of institutions use dogs in research and testing?

Chemical, pesticide and drug companies (as well as contract laboratories that carry out tests for these companies), public and private universities, community and technical schools, government-owned facilities, Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities and hospitals use dogs in research and testing.

View a Chart of Institutions That Use Dogs

Back to top

Which research institutions in the U.S. have the largest number of dogs in their possession?

Research Institution

# of Dogs in 2017


Covance Laboratories


Madison, WI

Charles River Laboratories


Wilmington, MA

Ridglan Farms


Mount Horeb, WI

MPI Research Inc (taken over by Charles River in 2018)


Mattawan, MI

University of Massachusetts Medical School


Worcester, MA


Back to top

Where do research institutions get the dogs they use in research and testing?

The majority of dogs in laboratories are purpose-bred, meaning that they are bred specifically to be used in research and testing. Breeders of purpose-bred dogs are called Class A dealers and are licensed and inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Of the Class A dealers selling to laboratories in 2018, these are the dealers with the largest number of dogs in their possession.  

Back to top

Which Class A dealers have the largest number of dogs in their possession?


# of Dogs in 2018


Marshall BioResources


North Rose, NY

Covance Research Products Inc.


Denver, PA

Oak Hill Genetics


Ewing, IL

Liberty Research Inc.


Waverly, NY


Back to top

What is life like for dogs in laboratories?

Dogs in laboratories are kept in empty steel cages, often alone. They may be subjected to repeated surgeries, force-fed drugs, pesticides or other substances and observed for harmful effects such as heart failure, signs of cancer or even death. In some cases, they are used by technicians to practice procedures such as force-feeding and blood collection.

See What We Found in Our Recent Undercover Investigation

Back to top

What happens to the dogs once the research or test period is over?

A few fortunate dogs may be adopted after their use in the laboratory, but the majority of dogs used in testing and research are killed, especially those used in chemical/drug testing. More and more states are passing laws that require laboratories, when possible, to offer dogs to shelters and other rescue organizations so they can be adopted.

Back to top

Aren’t there laws to protect dogs used in research and testing?

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) is supposed to protect certain animals, like dogs, used in testing and research but this law only offers minimum standards for housing, food and exercise as well as review of proposed research and testing by an Institutional Care and Use Committee, which is appointed by the institution itself. A 2014 audit report reviewing AWA oversight of research facilities found that “animals are not always receiving basic humane care and treatment and, in some cases, pain and distress are not minimized during and after experimental procedures.”

Back to top

Why are dogs still used in testing?

Many tests on dogs are required by government agencies. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires that dogs be used for a 90-day pesticide test and drugs are tested on dogs in order to secure approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Additional experiments for pesticides and drugs are also carried out on rats, rabbits, mice, birds and, in some cases, primates. These types of tests have been performed for years, regardless of whether they provide valuable information. It’s time for agencies to take a critical look at these tests and determine if they provide information necessary for assessing human safety or if better approaches are available. Agencies should also be investing in the development of non-animal alternatives.

Back to top

What is pound seizure?

Pound seizure is the practice of releasing or selling cats and dogs in animal shelters to laboratories and other facilities where they are used in biomedical research, product development, testing and educational demonstrations.

View a Map of State Pound Seizure Laws

Back to top

What are the alternatives to research and testing on dogs?

Not only do alternatives exist, but they’re being developed at record speedand the truth is that many of these methods are not only better for animals, they’re better for humans too. While we’re not there yet, the world is moving toward a future dominated by sophisticated alternative methods that use artificial and human cells and organs, 3D printing, robots, computers and other sophisticated methods to create testing and research results. These methods can be faster, often less expensive and more effective than current animal experiments.

Back to top

What are you doing to end research and testing on dogs?

We are asking companies to commit to no longer using dogs and we're also working to accelerate the development of non-animal alternatives in research and testing. This work is carried out by lobbying for increased federal funding, working with industry partners and building support for alternatives by the public, lawmakers and regulators. Our efforts are focused primarily in three critical areas: Strategic support for advances in key technologies and sciences, educating relevant people (scientists, funders, regulators) about the alternatives to animals and promoting research and implementation of non-animal methods to replace dogs and affect policy changes.

Back to top