An article just published in the peer-reviewed journal Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, authored by scientists from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), calls on companies to stop testing experimental flea and tick control products on dogs and cats. The article lays out steps that companies can take to make the transition to non-animal test methods.
Currently, animals in laboratories are exposed to high doses of toxic chemicals and infested with upwards of 100 fleas or ticks in order to test common flea and tick repellants for animal companions. In toxicity studies for one flea control product, more than 400 dogs and cats were force-fed a test chemical daily for up to nine months before being killed. In dozens of efficacy tests for another product, more than 300 dogs were infested with as many as 110 ticks or fleas each for up to 73 days. Some dogs were held in plastic crates infested with ticks for six hours. In addition to the distress and pain of severe flea and tick infestations, dogs and cats can endure side effects from the experimental chemicals, such as vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures–all while caged in solitary confinement.
The PETA scientists' article outlines available non-animal methods that companies can use now to test their products. One method is an artificial membrane system that essentially acts as skin, allowing fleas or ticks to attach naturally and feed on blood through the membrane. The article also provides recommendations on ways that companies can further develop non-animal methods and entirely replace animal use in flea and tick product testing.
PETA first exposed the use of animals in testing parasite control products in a 2010 investigation of Professional Laboratory and Research Services (PLRS). Eyewitness video revealed that dogs, cats, and rabbits used by PLRS–a company paid by industry giants to test flea and tick control products and other chemicals–suffered from untreated illnesses, injuries, and burns and that some were violently abused by employees. This contract laboratory shut down as a result of PETA's investigation.
But abuse such as that found at PLRS continues. Last month, a PETA investigation revealed that workers at Liberty Research, Inc., a contract laboratory that tests insecticides and other veterinary products, denied animals adequate veterinary care and a humane death, cut corners to increase profits, and fostered a pervasive culture of animal neglect. Video and more information from this investigation can be found here.
"Those of us who love the dogs and cats with whom we share our homes cannot even begin to imagine the torment other dogs and cats endure for these products. It is long past time for the companies exploiting these animals to use existing animal-free methods and commit funds to developing more of them," says Jessica Sandler, PETA's Vice President for Regulatory Testing.
A copy of the Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology article is available upon request. For more information, please visit PETA.org.