Dogs

How dogs have been used in NZ

Dogs have been used in research, testing and teaching in a variety of ways - from non-harmful to cruel and invasive methods. The majority of dogs used for research, testing and teaching purposes are used for teaching and veterinary research. They are also used in environmental management, medical research, testing and more.

Dogs in NZ have been used to:

  • Test insecticides, pesticides and other toxins.
  • Try and model human disease and other human conditions. 
  • Measure the safety of food and ingredients. 
  • Test what pain relief is most effective. 
  • Research disease detection.
  • Research nutrition, how it affects biological functions and food preference.
  • Test the effectiveness of new, possible treatments for skin infections.
  • Research performance, nutrition and underlying causes of disease in working dogs. These animals are seen as a vital part of the animal agriculture sector (in 2009 there were 150,000 working dogs in NZ).
  • Research fitness and training regimes in police dogs. Police dogs have also been used to train dog handlers. 
  • Teach vet and vet nurse students basic concepts like animal handling and basic clinical/husbandry skills. Dog cadavers are also used to teach vet students and some dogs already scheduled to be euthanised by council pounds, are euthanised by vet and vet nurse students as part of their training.

Dogs are also considered to be used for research, testing or teaching when blood samples are taken during routine vet checks are used for research purposes.  

Due to the high level of secrecy that this industry has, this is not a comprehensive list. For more details and referenced examples of how dogs are used, see the case studies section at the bottom of this page.

Research on dogs in the news

Pound dogs used in 1080 experiment

Ten unwanted dogs sourced from a Christchurch pound were subjected to six consecutive days of experimental poisoning before being killed. Read more here

Puppies' brains injected in cruel test

A research experiment approved by an NZ University involved Huntaway puppies having repeated injections made into their brains. Read more here

Overview 

The figures in the table below have been provided by MPI. 

How dogs were used for science in NZ:

Purpose 2018 2019 2020
Basic biological research 420 111 41
Veterinary research 1,742 295 299
Teaching 431 496 317
Animal husbandry research 0 0 0
Medical research 1 0 4
Testing 16 35 100
Environmental management 12 0 0
Species conservation 0 0 0
Production of biological agents 0 0 0
Development of alternatives 0 0 0
Producing offspring with compromised welfare 0 0 0
Other 2 19 0
Total number used 2,624 956 761
Animals killed 9 2 1
Animals killed that were bred but not used  NA 0 0
Total number including those bred and killed but weren't used 2,624 956 761

The figures in the table above were provided by MPI. 

Where dogs have been used

Dogs are used for research, testing and teaching purposes by private companies, universities, and polytechnics. Find out more.

Where dogs have been sourced from

Dogs used in science are sourced from breeding facilities, farms, city council pounds and other public sources. According to the Ministry for Primary Industries, public sources include public donations, animals obtained from a pound, a pet shop or other public sources. This includes companion animals who are used for the duration of the exercise (e.g. veterinary nurse training). Find out more.

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Further reading


Summary: Cats and dogs are held down tightly and fitted with face masks. Their breathing is measured for a while.


Procedure: Animals are restrained (holding them tight with both arms around the waist and neck). They are fitted with a face mask attached to a spirometer (measures breathing). They breathe pure oxygen until the machine has measured 15 cycles of similar breathing pattern. If an animal keeps struggling for more than 1min, the test will be stopped for that animal.

Purpose: To try and find a non-invasive way of measuring the functionality of the airways and lung tissue of awake, non-sedated animals. Breathing problems are hard to test for and diagnose. The study aims to create reference ranges for normal breathing with the test device in dogs and cats. 

Source: AEC application via OIA-request

Year approved: 2016

Read more..

Summary: Cats and dogs are held down tightly and fitted with face masks. Their breathing is measured for a while.


Procedure: Animals are restrained (holding them tight with both arms around the waist and neck). They are fitted with a face mask attached to a spirometer (measures breathing). They breathe pure oxygen until the machine has measured 15 cycles of similar breathing pattern. If an animal keeps struggling for more than 1min, the test will be stopped for that animal.

Purpose: To try and find a non-invasive way of measuring the functionality of the airways and lung tissue of awake, non-sedated animals. Breathing problems are hard to test for and diagnose. The study aims to create reference ranges for normal breathing with the test device in dogs and cats. 

Source: AEC application via OIA-request

Year approved: 2016

Summary: For regular blood samples over nine weeks, dogs are fasted overnight at the lab and returned to their owners the next day until the following sampling.


Procedure: Dogs are fasted overnight (8 hours) before a blood sample is taken from the neck vein in the morning. Samples are taken for nine weeks on days 1, 3, 5, 12, 19, 26, 40, 54 and 68. After each sampling, they go back home to their owner.

Purpose: To test if symmetric dimethylarginine can be used as a biomarker to detect kidney disease in dogs early. It is compared to conventionally used biomarkers (creatinine and urea).

Source: AEC application via OIA-request

Year published: 2016

Read more..

Summary: For regular blood samples over nine weeks, dogs are fasted overnight at the lab and returned to their owners the next day until the following sampling.


Procedure: Dogs are fasted overnight (8 hours) before a blood sample is taken from the neck vein in the morning. Samples are taken for nine weeks on days 1, 3, 5, 12, 19, 26, 40, 54 and 68. After each sampling, they go back home to their owner.

Purpose: To test if symmetric dimethylarginine can be used as a biomarker to detect kidney disease in dogs early. It is compared to conventionally used biomarkers (creatinine and urea).

Source: AEC application via OIA-request

Year published: 2016

Summary: A glucose sensor is stuck between the dog's shoulder blades and sutured in place before a bandage is stapled over it. After being fasted, each dog is studied on glucose levels and activity for two days.


Procedure: Huntaway and Heading dog breeds are monitored for glucose levels and activity levels. Each dog is fitted with a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) sensor. The sensor's 1.4cm cannula is inserted under the skin between the shoulder blades and sutured in place. An elastic bandage is placed over it and secured to the skin with four staples. At the beginning of the study, dogs will be fasted to get a baseline sample. Each dog is studied for 48 hours with an activity measuring collar.

Purpose: To find reasons for dropping performance in working dogs. "Decreased performance" is stated as a major reason for killing them. The results are intended for creating guidelines to avoid overworking the dogs.

Source: AEC application via OIA-request

Year approved: 2016

Read more..

Summary: A glucose sensor is stuck between the dog's shoulder blades and sutured in place before a bandage is stapled over it. After being fasted, each dog is studied on glucose levels and activity for two days.


Procedure: Huntaway and Heading dog breeds are monitored for glucose levels and activity levels. Each dog is fitted with a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) sensor. The sensor's 1.4cm cannula is inserted under the skin between the shoulder blades and sutured in place. An elastic bandage is placed over it and secured to the skin with four staples. At the beginning of the study, dogs will be fasted to get a baseline sample. Each dog is studied for 48 hours with an activity measuring collar.

Purpose: To find reasons for dropping performance in working dogs. "Decreased performance" is stated as a major reason for killing them. The results are intended for creating guidelines to avoid overworking the dogs.

Source: AEC application via OIA-request

Year approved: 2016

Summary: Samples from the skin of dogs are taken in different ways: plucking hair with the roots, sellotape strips pressed down and ripped off several times, acetone-soaked cotton buds and solvent washes.


Procedure: First, different methods of "lipid collection" are used on four healthy colony dogs. Samples from each dog include:

2 hair plucks (tuft of 1cm plucked with roots),

4 sellotape strips (5cm strips pressed on and pulled off of the same location 5 to 10 times),

4 cotton bud rubs (acetone-soaked swab rubbed 5 times" vigorously"),

and 4 organic solvent washes (a 2cm-diameter cylinder containing solvents like alcohol is held in place on the skin for 1min three times).

Hair is plucked from the torso, and all other samples are taken from the inner thigh. The best technique plus a single hair pluck will be tested on 16 additional healthy dogs and 20 diseased dogs.

Purpose: To test if lipid composition and status in the skin can be used to measure skin health. And, if so, which sampling technique is best. With atopic dermatitis being a common cause for veterinary treatment, this knowledge could lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Source: AEC application via OIA-request

Year approved: 2016

Read more..

Summary: Samples from the skin of dogs are taken in different ways: plucking hair with the roots, sellotape strips pressed down and ripped off several times, acetone-soaked cotton buds and solvent washes.


Procedure: First, different methods of "lipid collection" are used on four healthy colony dogs. Samples from each dog include:

2 hair plucks (tuft of 1cm plucked with roots),

4 sellotape strips (5cm strips pressed on and pulled off of the same location 5 to 10 times),

4 cotton bud rubs (acetone-soaked swab rubbed 5 times" vigorously"),

and 4 organic solvent washes (a 2cm-diameter cylinder containing solvents like alcohol is held in place on the skin for 1min three times).

Hair is plucked from the torso, and all other samples are taken from the inner thigh. The best technique plus a single hair pluck will be tested on 16 additional healthy dogs and 20 diseased dogs.

Purpose: To test if lipid composition and status in the skin can be used to measure skin health. And, if so, which sampling technique is best. With atopic dermatitis being a common cause for veterinary treatment, this knowledge could lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Source: AEC application via OIA-request

Year approved: 2016

Summary: Dogs were killed and samples of their bone marrow taken from different locations on their bodies.


Procedure: Eighteen healthy dogs (10 Staffordshire Terrier, 2 Pitbulls, 1 Boxer, 1 Border Collie, and 4 Mixed breed dogs) were killed under local council bylaw for reasons unrelated to physical health. Blood samples were taken immediately before, and bone marrow immediately after death. Marrow samples were taken from four different sites on each dog.

Purpose: To see if bone marrow taken from different parts of the body shows different diagnostic test results. If composition or quality differs between body parts, the location of the sample would be important for diagnosing diseases like blood cancer.

Source: Journal article

Year published: 2018

Read more..

Summary: Dogs were killed and samples of their bone marrow taken from different locations on their bodies.


Procedure: Eighteen healthy dogs (10 Staffordshire Terrier, 2 Pitbulls, 1 Boxer, 1 Border Collie, and 4 Mixed breed dogs) were killed under local council bylaw for reasons unrelated to physical health. Blood samples were taken immediately before, and bone marrow immediately after death. Marrow samples were taken from four different sites on each dog.

Purpose: To see if bone marrow taken from different parts of the body shows different diagnostic test results. If composition or quality differs between body parts, the location of the sample would be important for diagnosing diseases like blood cancer.

Source: Journal article

Year published: 2018

Summary: The anaesthesia of pound dogs is gradually deepened to dangerous levels. Students are also taking blood samples, placing catheters and giving a blood transfusion. All while a teacher supervises. Castration or spay are performed as per the standard surgical procedure.


Procedure: Students are taught by demonstration and then supervised while practising in a Vet-nursing course. Pound dogs are used for general anaesthesia and, while being anaesthetised, used for practical exercise:
Taking blood samples
Placing catheters
Taking blood for transfusion
Giving a transfusion
Measuring blood pressure via Doppler
The pound dogs are killed by anaesthetic overdose. SPCA (or other dogs provided by charities) are castrated or spayed as per standard surgical procedure by a vet; students are watching.

Purpose: To cover the practical part of a course for teaching and training vet students. One of the aims is to witness a life-threatening level of anaesthesia that they would not otherwise witness (involving pound dogs from ICC pound).

Source: AEC application via OIA-request

Year approved: 2015

Read more..

Summary: The anaesthesia of pound dogs is gradually deepened to dangerous levels. Students are also taking blood samples, placing catheters and giving a blood transfusion. All while a teacher supervises. Castration or spay are performed as per the standard surgical procedure.


Procedure: Students are taught by demonstration and then supervised while practising in a Vet-nursing course. Pound dogs are used for general anaesthesia and, while being anaesthetised, used for practical exercise:
Taking blood samples
Placing catheters
Taking blood for transfusion
Giving a transfusion
Measuring blood pressure via Doppler
The pound dogs are killed by anaesthetic overdose. SPCA (or other dogs provided by charities) are castrated or spayed as per standard surgical procedure by a vet; students are watching.

Purpose: To cover the practical part of a course for teaching and training vet students. One of the aims is to witness a life-threatening level of anaesthesia that they would not otherwise witness (involving pound dogs from ICC pound).

Source: AEC application via OIA-request

Year approved: 2015

Summary: Eight dogs are treated with four different combinations of the test drugs in random order with two-week breaks in between. Two catheters are placed in leg veins (for drug injection and blood samples). For the test, dogs are fasted for 12 hours and anaesthetised. EEG is recorded with electrodes near the brain to measure response to electric shocks. Regular blood samples are taken for 8 hours.


Procedure: Each dog is experiencing all four drug combinations with two weeks of rest in-between. Dogs are fitted with two catheters to the leg vein; for the drugs and blood samples. After 12 hours of fasting, dogs are anaesthetised and the test drugs are injected; either:
just morphine,
morphine + maropitant,
morphine + dexmedetomidine, or
morphine + maropitant + dexmedetomidine.
Blood samples are taken for 8 hours after test drug injection. EEG is recorded via three stainless steel needle electrodes placed close to the brain. A baseline reading is recorded, followed by applying an electric shock (50V at 50Hz for 2 seconds) to the hind limb above the paw. EEG data are collected for 15min after electrical stimulation.

The article was published in 2020 here: https://doi.org/10.1111/jvp.12889

Purpose: To test the dose-effect relationship of different combinations of three pain relief drugs in dogs. The goal of using two or more drugs is to increase the effect with fewer side effects. This study uses brain responses to an electrical shock to measure the drug effect and blood samples to measure how the drug behaves in the body.

Sources: AEC application via OIA-request; Journal article

Year approved: 2017

Year published: 2020

Read more..

Summary: Eight dogs are treated with four different combinations of the test drugs in random order with two-week breaks in between. Two catheters are placed in leg veins (for drug injection and blood samples). For the test, dogs are fasted for 12 hours and anaesthetised. EEG is recorded with electrodes near the brain to measure response to electric shocks. Regular blood samples are taken for 8 hours.


Procedure: Each dog is experiencing all four drug combinations with two weeks of rest in-between. Dogs are fitted with two catheters to the leg vein; for the drugs and blood samples. After 12 hours of fasting, dogs are anaesthetised and the test drugs are injected; either:
just morphine,
morphine + maropitant,
morphine + dexmedetomidine, or
morphine + maropitant + dexmedetomidine.
Blood samples are taken for 8 hours after test drug injection. EEG is recorded via three stainless steel needle electrodes placed close to the brain. A baseline reading is recorded, followed by applying an electric shock (50V at 50Hz for 2 seconds) to the hind limb above the paw. EEG data are collected for 15min after electrical stimulation.

The article was published in 2020 here: https://doi.org/10.1111/jvp.12889

Purpose: To test the dose-effect relationship of different combinations of three pain relief drugs in dogs. The goal of using two or more drugs is to increase the effect with fewer side effects. This study uses brain responses to an electrical shock to measure the drug effect and blood samples to measure how the drug behaves in the body.

Sources: AEC application via OIA-request; Journal article

Year approved: 2017

Year published: 2020

Summary: Dogs are given blackcurrant pills for several days. The number of pills increases over time up to 60 tablets. Their health is monitored.


Procedure: Dogs are given pills containing blackcurrant extract daily in increasing amounts, some for a week on lower doses, some for a week on higher quantities. In the end, they are tested to tolerate a whole package of pills (60 pieces). They are weighed and examined, and their activity is monitored through an activity collars. Blood samples and some "free catch" urine samples are taken.

Purpose: To test the safety of black currant extract for dogs. They want to try and use the extract as treatment for degenerative osteoarthritis in dogs. There is currently no treatment for arthritis other than joint replacement and pain killers, which are expensive. So they are looking for a cheaper way to treat arthritic dogs.

Source: AEC application via OIA-request

Year approved: 2017

Read more..

Summary: Dogs are given blackcurrant pills for several days. The number of pills increases over time up to 60 tablets. Their health is monitored.


Procedure: Dogs are given pills containing blackcurrant extract daily in increasing amounts, some for a week on lower doses, some for a week on higher quantities. In the end, they are tested to tolerate a whole package of pills (60 pieces). They are weighed and examined, and their activity is monitored through an activity collars. Blood samples and some "free catch" urine samples are taken.

Purpose: To test the safety of black currant extract for dogs. They want to try and use the extract as treatment for degenerative osteoarthritis in dogs. There is currently no treatment for arthritis other than joint replacement and pain killers, which are expensive. So they are looking for a cheaper way to treat arthritic dogs.

Source: AEC application via OIA-request

Year approved: 2017

Summary: During working-dog assessment, pigeons will be thrown in front of them or flung into the air near them to test if the dogs are "flush safe". They will fail their test if they attack the pigeon.


Procedure: The certification involves two pigeons per dog, with up to 8 dogs assessed at the same workshop. In test 1, the dog is walked off the lead on heel next to the handler. When the dog is settled, the pigeon is thrown on the ground near the dog. In test 2, a pigeon is placed in a remote-release pigeon launcher. The dog will be heeled upwind, and the bird will be released when the dog is within 4 metres or closer. Pigeons will be held up to 48 hours in boxes (506sqm) with straw bedding and access to food and water. Any injured pigeon will be taken to a vet within 40 km or killed.

Purpose: To hold regular assessment workshops in the Conservation dogs programme. The dogs are trained to locate "pest" and protected species. They are certified for their safety around protected species. The application is for pigeons to be used as a test standardisation rather than accidental exposure to wild birds.

Source: AEC application via OIA-request

Year approved: 2018

Read more..

Summary: During working-dog assessment, pigeons will be thrown in front of them or flung into the air near them to test if the dogs are "flush safe". They will fail their test if they attack the pigeon.


Procedure: The certification involves two pigeons per dog, with up to 8 dogs assessed at the same workshop. In test 1, the dog is walked off the lead on heel next to the handler. When the dog is settled, the pigeon is thrown on the ground near the dog. In test 2, a pigeon is placed in a remote-release pigeon launcher. The dog will be heeled upwind, and the bird will be released when the dog is within 4 metres or closer. Pigeons will be held up to 48 hours in boxes (506sqm) with straw bedding and access to food and water. Any injured pigeon will be taken to a vet within 40 km or killed.

Purpose: To hold regular assessment workshops in the Conservation dogs programme. The dogs are trained to locate "pest" and protected species. They are certified for their safety around protected species. The application is for pigeons to be used as a test standardisation rather than accidental exposure to wild birds.

Source: AEC application via OIA-request

Year approved: 2018

Summary: After a pilot study with just one dog, six more are given an experimental parasitic treatment. Regular blood samples are taken through a catheter.


Procedure: A pilot study with one dog using 0.1mg/kg abamectin had shown that it left the body within 36 hours. So in this study, six dogs are given 0.2mg/kg, which is considered the needed dose for parasitic treatment. DNA swabs are taken, because the drug is lethal with a specific gene condition. Blood samples are taken regularly through a catheter for 24 hours after injecting the chemical; then, the catheter will be removed. A final blood sample at 36 hours is taken from the neck vein.

Purpose: To study how abamectin behaves in dogs’ bodies (drug metabolism). Dogs have been poisoned by abamectin before. There is only limited knowledge of how the chemical is metabolised.

Source: AEC application via OIA-request

Year approved: 2017

Read more..

Summary: After a pilot study with just one dog, six more are given an experimental parasitic treatment. Regular blood samples are taken through a catheter.


Procedure: A pilot study with one dog using 0.1mg/kg abamectin had shown that it left the body within 36 hours. So in this study, six dogs are given 0.2mg/kg, which is considered the needed dose for parasitic treatment. DNA swabs are taken, because the drug is lethal with a specific gene condition. Blood samples are taken regularly through a catheter for 24 hours after injecting the chemical; then, the catheter will be removed. A final blood sample at 36 hours is taken from the neck vein.

Purpose: To study how abamectin behaves in dogs’ bodies (drug metabolism). Dogs have been poisoned by abamectin before. There is only limited knowledge of how the chemical is metabolised.

Source: AEC application via OIA-request

Year approved: 2017

READ MORE