Animal Testing's Happy Healthy Test Subjects
Last week, Skeezix and I were the guests of Iams/Eukanuba in Dayton, Ohio. Pictured above is Dan Rajczak, the CEO of Iams/Eukanuba, with Skeezix and me, which illustrates the access we had to everyone in the company.
This week I'll give you an inside peek at what goes on behind the scenes at Iams/Eukanuba. Today I'll focus on animal testing, since that's such a hot button with many of you. (Photos weren't allowed due to the proprietary technology, but I'll describe what I saw as best I can.)
Animal Testing and Research at Iams/Eukanuba
My biggest surprise was the animal testing/research facility. One of the guys in our group said he was expecting to see animals hooked up to the Matrix, and that pretty much reflected my expectation. Frankly, I was kind of dreading it.
I was in for the surprise of my life.
This tour was a rare treat; outsiders are seldom allowed in, both to protect their proprietary methods and technology, but also to keep the animals from being exposed to any kind of disease. The facilities are housed on a campus surrounded by woods and cornfields. The first thing you see are dogs in outdoor "playpens" rollicking like maniacs (except for the pair of beagles we saw humping each other).
The Cat Facility
I was most interested in the cat facility, and I could have stayed there all day. The resident cats are housed in a festive cage-free stimulus-rich indoor-outdoor environment, and someone is there all day long to play with them, groom them, and basically wait on them hand and foot.
The cats are obviously healthy, happy and well-socialized. There is a platform affixed to the glass wall where you can view the indoor living area, and one after another, the cats would jump up, and rub against the glass to greet us. All of the cats are domestic short-hairs/long-hairs.
They all have access to an outdoor "catio" which is littered with toys and has hammocks and platforms affixed to the chain link enclosure at varying heights to accommodate the cat hierarchy (alpha cats stay low, while the low cat on the totem pole gets as high as she can.)
The Testing Process
Cats have embedded microchips to identify them. When they are fed, the amount they eat is measured. They pee and poop in million-dollar litter boxes that measure and collect the output which can be analyzed to determine how effectively the food is digested. That's it. They're not caged, they're not hooked up to machines, they're not force-fed like geese to make foie gras.
The unanimous consensus among everyone in our group was that the test cats are treated far better than our own spoiled cats. Someone is fully dedicated to playing with them all day long, they never ever have to poop in a dirty litter box, and after they've served their time as test cats, they are adopted out to loving homes.
In conjunction with testing, the cats and dogs go through extensive socialization training, partly to ensure that they will make great pets after they "retire." This includes familiarizing them with the home environment and training them to behave properly in the home.
The dogs' kennels are state-of-the-art. Dogs get plenty of outdoors time, which includes stimulus-rich playpens and walks. Employees can "check out" dogs to take on walks on a dog path that winds through the nearby woods. Like the cats, the dogs were all very happy, well-trained, and well-socialized.
When the animals are between 6-8 years old, they are retired from testing and adopted out to forever homes. Before they're adopted out, they go through transitional training to ensure they will fit in to the home environment.
Iams/Eukanuba no longer contracts out testing to outside research facilities to ensure the welfare of the dogs and cats in its test program.
Everyone at the research facility (well, everyone who works at Iams/Eukanuba) is an over-the-top animal lover, who will whip out the iPhone to show you photos of their pets. Sure, they are scientists, but that takes a back seat to their passion for animals and interest in animal welfare. Most of the people we met have worked there for many years, and absolutely LOVE their jobs, and that's reflected in the superb care these animals receive. I would LOVE to board my cats here when I go on vacation.
And by the way, Dan Rajczak is a cat person. He has two cats, and an adopted black lab research dog just joined their family.
In the interest of full disclosure, this trip was fully paid for by Iams/Eukanuba. They gave Skeezix two stylish scarves: a green Iams scarf, and a pink Eukanuba scarf. They provided a gift basket which included but was not limited to Pringles and a travel-sized bottle of Scope. They took us bowling and had custom-embroidered bowling shirts made for us.