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Research
Pets in clinical trials
  1. Eddie Clutton1,
  2. Guen Bradbury2,
  3. David Chennells3,
  4. Ngaire Dennison4,
  5. Juliet Duncan5,
  6. Bryony Few6,
  7. Paul Flecknell7,
  8. Huw Golledge8,
  9. Dorothy McKeegan9,
  10. Kathy Murphy10,
  11. Gabrielle C. Musk11 and
  12. Polly Taylor12
  1. 1Wellcome Trust Critical Care Laboratory for Large Animals, Roslin Institute, Easter Bush, Midlothian EH25 9RG e-mail: e.clutton@ed.ac.uk
  2. 2Innovia Technology, St Andrew’s House, St Andrew’s Road, Cambridge CB4 1DL
  3. 3Court Farm, Olney, Buckinghamshire MK46 5EH
  4. 4Biological Services, University of Dundee, MSI/WTB/JBC Complex, Dow Street, Dundee DD1 5EH
  5. 5Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Easter Bush Campus, University of Edinburgh, Midlothian EH25 9RG
  6. 6Charles River Laboratories, Tranent, East Lothian EH33 2NE
  7. 7Newcastle University, Newcastle-upon Tyne NE1 7RU
  8. 8Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, The Old School, Brewhouse Hill, Wheathampstead, Hertfordshire AL4 8AN
  9. 9Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, G12 8QQ
  10. 10Comparative Biology Centre, Newcastle University, Newcastleupon Tyne NE2 4HH
  11. 11Animal Care Services, University of Western Australia, M720, Perth, WA 6009, Australia
  12. 12Taylor Monroe, Gravel Head Farm, Little Downham, Nr Ely, Cambridgeshire CB6 2TY

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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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