The Environment and Animal Society Taiwan (EAST), at a press conference in Taipei yesterday, showed eight beagles that had been caged in a laboratory for animal testing for years before they were rescued last month, urging the government to enhance its inspections of and control over laboratories that conduct experiments on animals.
The civic animal welfare group showed a video clip of the dogs huddling together in a corner when they were first taken out of the laboratory — in which they spent the past eight years in a small, confined space without sunlight, while being subjected to pharmacokinetic testing.
EAST director Chen Yu-min (陳玉敏) said the dogs were taken out of the laboratory by chance, before they could be put to death or sold to other laboratories for further experimentation.
The dogs underwent thorough health examinations after they were rescued and they were all in poor health, she added.
All eight dogs were suffering from heart disease, six were overweight or anemic, and some had adrenal hyperactivity, external parasites, chronic pancreatitis, splenic tumors or other health problems, Chen said.
She added that while the external parasites were eliminated through treatment, the animals’ other diseases need to be controlled by long-term medication.
The group was shocked by their poor health, which obviously deteriorated over a long period of time, and the case showed that animals used for testing drugs are not cared for by professional veterinarians, she said.
“The Council of Agriculture’s [COA] statistics showed that 3,941 dogs were used for animal testing in the past 10 years, of which 2,186 were put to death and the rest may have been transferred to other facilities for experiments or training, still enduring discomfort or pain,” she said.
“More than 10 million other animals were used in animal testing in the past 10 years,” Chen added.
The group urged the council and the Ministry of Health and Welfare to enhance their supervising mechanisms, including increasing inspections of the nation’s 213 animal experiment facilities.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) said the council’s data show that only 100 of the 213 facilities included veterinarians in their institutional animal care and use committees.
“The Animal Protection Act (動物保護法) stipulates that laboratory animals used for scientific purposes must be allowed to recover their physiological functions before being used for further experiments,” Lin said, adding she doubts that testing drugs on ill-conditioned dogs would result in safe and correct data.
Lin Tsung-yi (林宗毅), head of the animal protection section of the COA’s Department of Animal Industry, said the monitoring mechanism includes an internal one — the institutional animal care and use committee assembled by the facilities — and the inspections conducted by the council.
“If self-management by the animal experiment facilities’ internal committees is done properly, cases such as this one should not occur at all,” he said.
Lin added that the council had already amended related regulations last year to make the review of animal-testing proposals stricter, and they hope to increase the inspection frequency from 40 sites per year to about 50 sites this year.
EAST also urged the council to set up a mechanism enabling retired laboratory animals to be adopted by the public.