Animal research

Love your dog, support animal research


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Dog owners will soon be able to add years to the life of their pets, thanks to an experimental anti-aging pill. In tests with mice, the drug, rapamycin, has been shown to extend lifespan by up to 60%. Now scientists at the University of Washington’s Dog Aging Project are studying whether it works in dogs.

Initial reports indicate that the drug improves heart health. The researchers believe that if larger trials are successful, rapamycin could extend the life of a dog by five years. Animal lovers everywhere must be jumping for joy, right?

Wrong. In fact, many animal rights groups strongly oppose studies, as they do almost all studies involving animals. Yale researcher Christine Lattin places wild sparrows in medical scanners to measure their response to the stress of captivity or exposure to crude oil. This summer People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals launched a campaign accusing Ms Lattin of ‘torturing birds’ in ‘useless experiments’. Soon she was receiving emails telling her to kill herself.

If these groups really defend animals, their logic is retrograde. Nearly 70% of American households have pets. The food and vaccines for these animals have all been developed through humane research and testing on laboratory animals.

Consider the feline immunodeficiency virus, which attacks the immune system of cats and has an 80% survival rate four to six years after infection. In 2002, scientists at the University of California and the University of Florida developed a vaccine against FIV, based on tests they performed on lab cats.

Livestock also benefit from studies conducted on laboratory animals. Antimicrobials such as Rumensin, developed in 1975, are commonly used to treat various infections in cows and were developed through research on mice. Fowl pox threatens the 19 billion chickens in the world. The virus produces painful lesions on a bird’s skin, throat and airways. Thanks to studies carried out on mice, scientists in 2006 created a live virus vaccine for chicks.

Endangered species also benefit from this type of research. Take Asian elephants, of which there are only about 40,000 in the wild. One of the biggest threats they face is a strain of herpes that kills up to 90% of the elephants it infects, according to the International Elephant Foundation. The virus has killed about 25% of the captive population in North America over the past 40 years. But researchers are working on a vaccine that could save the species from extinction.

Ebola killed 25% of the wild chimpanzee population in an Ivorian rainforest, according to the Journal of Infectious Diseases, and the disease wiped out nearly a third of the world’s gorilla population in 2007, according to research from the University of Cambridge. Researchers working with chimpanzees in the United States in 2014 developed an Ebola vaccine that could save thousands of monkeys.

Animals are living longer and healthier lives thanks to these scientists. Discouraging studies condemn animals to unnecessary suffering and death from preventable diseases. True animal lovers should be proud to support animal research.

Mr. Bailey is President of the Foundation for Biomedical Research.

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