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We have been concerned for some time with an apparent progressive loss of clarity between acts of veterinary surgery and animal experimentation, particularly with respect to companion animals. Our concerns were heightened by an editorial published in Nature in December 2016 entitled ‘Pet projects need a helping hand’ (Anon 2016). This article proposed that the EU directive 2010/63 be relaxed so that veterinarians can conduct clinical trials on pet animals.
In the editorial, it was suggested that ‘overzealous regulations’ are stifling scientific progress by limiting the use of companion animals in clinical trials of treatments of both human and animal disease. While we accept the possibility of some benefit arising from such studies, we feel Nature significantly underestimates the potential for harms to be caused to the animals used. We argue that robust regulation is necessary for clinical trials carried out using companion animals, just as it is for all scientific uses of animals and for human clinical trials. Indeed, ethical oversight for trials on companion animals which involve the potentially competing interests of animals, owners, treating clinicians and trial funders may be in even more need of independent ethical review and oversight than most other forms of animal research.
The editorial suggests that using pets for clinical trials is scientifically more valid because they are the ‘real McCoy’: they are genetically diverse, develop …
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