Maastricht stops use of dogs in experimental research

Maastricht University (UM) is set to discontinue experimental research using dogs as test subjects. The decision was taken by the board of the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences (FHML) in response to a safety audit which revealed that the dogs and their caretakers face unacceptable risks during their daily trip to the playground.

Following the FHML’s decision the UM Executive Board, as the permit holder, announced that it will no longer provide facilities for research involving dogs. The research group concerned will henceforth focus on the mechanical properties of the heart, which does not require experiments on dogs. Research involving other animals will carry on as before.

Recently, a committee composed of external experts reported the findings of its investigation into the procedures surrounding the dog experiments. The committee concluded that the decision by the Animal Experiments Committee (DEC) to approve the dog experiments was both correct and ethically defensible. The Faculty Board, however, took additional factors into account when making its decision, including safety.

Committee findings

The external committee noted that the relevant research group is nationally and internationally renowned for its clinically relevant, high-quality work. It found that the group’s use of dogs as test subjects, and in particular the use of a large breed of dog, was well substantiated and justified. According to the committee, "in addition to the possible PR risks, the choice of a breed that is typically used as a pet has an ethical component.” Having found no conclusive arguments supporting either side, the committee refrained from making a recommendation on whether the dog experiments should be continued or not.

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