Although the vast majority of medical schools in the United States have abolished dog labs from their curricula, three schools still use live dogs in teaching labs for medical students – New York Medical College, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and Medical College of Wisconsin.
According to the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine, of the 125 medical degree-granting programs in the country, all but 12 have stopped using any live animals (such as pigs or other animals) in their teaching labs, where students inject the animals with drugs then cut them open to observe the reaction of the internal organs. The animals are killed at the end of the session.
Some schools allow students to opt out of the labs for moral or religious reasons. But most schools have themselves opted to end the practice altogether, because of great advances in computer-based learning and simulation and emphasis on human-based knowledge and medical ethics.
The Harvard University Medical School has been a pioneer in the replacement of animal use with educational reforms and computer simulation alternatives. Instead of using live dogs or pigs, students observe human surgery performed in an operating theater. Students get to see patients being anesthetized--an element missing from most dog or pig labs. Observing human surgery obviously gives students a lesson in human anatomy that they could never learn from dissecting a non-human animal.
- The American College of Surgeons (ACS) Accredited Education Institutes has a curriculum reform program that does not include the use of animals. According to its website, “The Education Institutes may use a variety of methods to achieve specific educational outcomes, including the use of bench models, simulations, simulators, and virtual reality.”
- According to the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, “ACGME supports the use of simulators and other non-animal training methods to replace the use of animals in the laboratory. We will continue to support [your] efforts as the ACS works to require surgery training programs to seek certification as Accredited Education Institutes.”
- The American Medical Student Association has spoken in favor of non-animal methods in teaching labs. In their “Principles Regarding Vivisection in Medical Education,” the group “strongly encourages the replacement of animal laboratories with non-animal alternatives in undergraduate medical education. (2007).”
During the last three years, the number of medical schools still using animals dropped dramatically, from 25 to 12. If the most prestigious schools in the country can stop this wasteful and archaic practice, there can be no reason for other schools to include killing animals in their curricula.
At the CU Health Sciences Center, five students declined to participate in dog labs the 1998, the first year that option was offered. In 1999, 10 to 15 students did not take part in the exercise. In early 2000, a record 31 of 130 first-year medical students did not participate in dog labs. The school now gives students the option to observe human surgery instead.
Other schools have placed moratoriums on dog labs or disbanded the practice altogether, because of concerns that disreputable sources supplied the dogs for those labs. "Class B" dealers often procure animals from questionable sources. Several instances of pet theft have been linked to these dealers. In turn, medical schools and research labs buy many animals from Class B dealers, and investigators believe that stolen dogs sometimes wind up on the operating tables of medical students.
Dog labs are obsolete and cruel. Humane and more applicable alternatives to dog labs exist; reason enough to eliminate dog labs, regardless of questions concerning the procurement of the animals.
What You Can Do
Send a polite letter or email to the following school officials, asking them to end the use of all live animals in medical education, and respectfully ask for a response.
Edward D. Miller, M.D.
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
733 North Broadway
Baltimore, MD 21205
Larry Laughlin, M.D., Ph.D., Dean
Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences School of Medicine
4301 Jones Bridge Road
Bethesda, MD 20814
Daniel W. Jones, M.D., Ph.D.
University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Medicine
2500 N. State St.
Jackson, MS 39216-4505
Larry Shapiro, M.D., Dean, School of Medicine
Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine
4580 Scott Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63110
Ralph A. O’Connell, M.D.
Dean, School of Medicine
New York Medical College
Valhalla, NY 10595
David Musick. M.D.
Associate Dean for Medical Education
The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University
Greenville, NC 27834
Pamela B. Davis, M.D., Ph.D., Interim Dean
Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
10900 Euclid Ave., BRB 113
Cleveland, OH 44106
Office of the Dean
School of Medicine
Oregon Health & Science University
3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Rd., L102
Portland, OR 97239
Steve J. Schwab., M.D., Executive Dean
University of Tennessee College of Medicine
62 South Dunlap St., Room 405
Memphis, TN 38163
Michael J. Dunn, Dean
Medical College of Wisconsin
8701 Watertown Plank Rd.
Milwaukee, WI 53226
Philip M. Farrell, M.D., Dean
University of Wisconsin Medical School
1300 University Ave.
Madison, WI 53706