The “Lab Dog” Lie

The Rise for Animals Team, August 24, 2023

A dog is a dog – with the same desires for affiliation and affection – regardless of whether they’re sharing our homes or suffering inside laboratories. 

A dog is a dog – with the same abilities to feel pain and fear – regardless of whether we call them family, companions, “pets”, or “lab animals”. 

And, a dog is a dog – deserving of equal moral consideration – regardless of the false dichotomy constructed by animal researchers.

Animal researchers treated all dogs the same until faced with public pushback.

Historically, researchers implicitly acknowledged that a dog is a dog, exploiting any to whom they had access – they manipulated their own “pets” as experimental subjects and poached strays from street corners and shelter cages. 

A segment of the populace always disfavored these practices, but, by increasingly hiding their abuses from public view, researchers prevented public opposition from boiling over until the 1960s, when Life and Sports Illustrated exposés about the research industry’s dog trade galvanized the electorate to barrage Congress with more mail about animal care issues (including the use of “pet” dogs in laboratories) than about civil rights and the Vietnam War combined.

This tremendous outcry led to the passage of the first federal law (the modern Animal Welfare Act’s precursor) in 1966 . . . but it failed to protect dogs from researchers. 

Indeed – amidst the public’s fixation on the harm of “pet” dogs, rather than the harm of any dogs – researchers concocted a mirage.

They ramped up canine selective breeding and genetic manipulation (which had begun in the nineteenth century) and began insidiously marketing the idea that these dogs – created as research “tools” – are different from the companion dogs with whom we share our homes; and that, because of this supposed difference, their use in laboratories is acceptable when the use of pet dogs is not.

Animal researchers created the “lab dog” lie to reduce public angst and diffuse opposition, and it’s still operative today. 

It’s 2023, and thousands upon thousands of dogs –  almost 50,000 in the U.S. alone – meet their fates in laboratories each year . . . every single one of them identical in every way that matters to those we call our best friends and our family.

So, this upcoming National Dog Day, let us emphasize that a dog is a dog

And let us honor dogs’ history as “significant symbols of protest about the plight of lab animals….” by protesting ourselves.

We recently uncovered internal photos of dogs in the labs at the University of Washington. To view them and take action against these dogs’ cruel fate, click here.