Three leading veterinary schools have strongly defended the ethical importation of dead dogs from the US to provide UK students with essential dissection practice.

A spokesman for The University of Cambridge said: “We believe this is an appropriate, ethical and humane way to source dogs for anatomical teaching.”

The University of Cambridge, University of Nottingham and the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) were all named by animal organisation Cruelty Free International (CFI), which said it obtained details through freedom of information requests.

CFI, which campaigns to end animal experiments worldwide, said: “While some universities stated they obtained dogs’ bodies, known as ‘cadavers’, from sources where, for example, the animal died naturally or was euthanised to prevent suffering due to terminal illness, others, such as Cambridge, Nottingham and the RVC, admitted obtaining dead dogs from a US commercial company.”

Essential for teaching

The University of Cambridge confirmed US canine cadavers were used within its Department of Veterinary Medicine.

In a statement, it said: “To train future vets, it is essential to use dead and embalmed animals for detailed anatomical teaching.

“All our dissection dogs are provided by a third party company, which sources and supplies embalmed dogs for educational use. The source of the dead dogs is from United States Department of Agriculture-licensed establishments that would otherwise dispose of the dogs to landfill sites, incineration or otherwise destroyed.

“Since all the dogs are already destined to be euthanised, and if they were not used for veterinary training they would be destroyed, we believe this is an appropriate, ethical and humane way to source dogs for anatomical teaching.”

Necessary skills

A spokesman for The University of Nottingham also confirmed it imported US canine cadavers.

The spokesman said: “Unfortunately, we do not have a hospital on site, so we are unable to benefit from dog owners donating their animals for teaching purposes, unlike other schools. We therefore need to source dogs from outside.

“There are no commercial organisations in the UK that supply the range of dog cadavers required by the school. We hope people will understand the need to for us to use this material for the training of veterinary students.”

Ethically obtained

The RVC admitted using US dogs. A statement said:  “The use of postmortem material continues to be an essential part of this training. Use of such material includes the performance of autopsies on animals that have died or been euthanised, examination of material from abattoirs and anatomical training using the bodies of companion animals that have died or been euthanised.

“We obtain these materials ethically and specifically ensure animals are not euthanised solely for training purposes. We continue to review and develop ways to train vets and consider the use of postmortem material remains essential for the training of vets.”

  • Read the full story in the 12 December issue of Veterinary Times.
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