Some papers are claiming that EU rules will allow the use of pets and strays in animal experiments. This is not true and below we set out why.
The origin of stray and feral animals of domestic species is unknown, which reduces their scientific value when used in procedures. In addition, they are not familiar with a laboratory environment, inducing unnecessary distress and suffering. Therefore, for scientific, animal welfare and ethical reasons they should not be used in scientific procedures. In line with that, Directive 2010/63/EU contains a prohibition on the use of stray and feral animals in procedures.
However, in some very exceptional cases, such as when investigating an affliction which is particular only to stray animals (e.g. a disease affecting stray animals only and is transmittable to humans in contact with them), it may be necessary to use them in a limited research study. However, as can be seen from the text of the provisions (below), this would be highly exceptional and always based on a clear scientific justification and on a case by case basis.
Any other testing or research using dogs and cats can only be done with animals that have been specifically bred for scientific purposes.
Article 10 Animals bred for use in procedures, states that:
• Member States shall ensure that animals belonging to the species listed in Annex I may only be used in procedures where those animals have been bred for use in procedures. [Annex I includes cats and dogs.]
However, it should be noted that Article 11 Stray and feral animals of domestic species specifically states that:
• Stray and feral animals of domestic species shall not be used in procedures.
The competent authorities may only grant exemptions from paragraph 1 subject to the following conditions:
• there is an essential need for studies concerning the health and welfare of the animals or serious threats to the environment or to human or animal health, and
• there is scientific justification to the effect that the purpose of the procedure can be achieved only by the use of a stray or a feral animal.
It is important to note that the old Directive (86/609/EEC) forbids the use of a general exemption to allow the use of stray dogs and cats. However, a special exemption without any specific criteria as to its justification required by the Directive could still be granted for this purpose. The new legislation therefore affords stronger protection to stray and feral animals.