Senator Wiener’s PET Act, Ending Harmful and Unnecessary Chemical Testing on Dogs and Cats, Passes Senate

June 3, 2021

SACRAMENTO - Senator Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) legislation, Senate Bill 252, also known as the PET (Prohibiting Extraneous Testing) Act, passed the full Senate by a vote of 30-1. The PET Act ends the suffering of cats and dogs by prohibiting these household pets from being used in toxicity tests for products such as pesticides, food and color additives, and drugs. This bill exempts the testing of pet medications and pet products and testing for biomedical research and vaccines. Additionally, SB 252 does not impact testing required by federal statutes or testing that is necessary for medical research in the state.

Studies show that animal toxicity tests are unreliable, do not truly ensure human safety, and have serious scientific limitations. For example, nearly 90 percent of drugs first tested on animals end up failing when subsequently tested on people, with about half failing due to unanticipated toxicity when tested on humans. Much of the current toxicity testing on these animals is inhumane, unnecessary, and ultimately does not further scientific research on toxicity in humans. 

Toxicity testing exposes animals to chemicals (including pharmaceuticals, industrial and consumer products, and food additives) as an attempt to understand what harms may be caused to humans by these chemicals. This testing is frequently excruciatingly painful for animals. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, this testing varies in duration, and animals are observed for toxic effects including: vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, respiratory distress, appetite or weight loss, rashes, salivation, paralysis, lethargy, bleeding, organ abnormalities, tumors, and even death. 

In California, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), there are approximately 600 dogs located in ten different facilities across the state where this toxicity testing occurs. These canines are bred to live their entire lives confined in laboratory settings and are forced to undergo product testing that does not ensure human safety, or even eliminate the need for eventual human testing. The testing can include situations in which chemicals are forced down a dog’s throat, or into their lungs. Some tests even involve intentionally administering a drug or chemical overdose to a dog, and other tests involve administering chemicals over a prolonged period, causing slow and painful deaths. The bill will put an end to those tests and ensure that cats are not subject to the same conditions.

The PET Act prohibits this unnecessary and harmful testing, while allowing for essential testing involving drugs and products for pets, and for biomedical research. Biomedical research is defined as research related to physical or mental diseases, impairments, chronic conditions, and the development of biomedical products or devices. Medical research does not include research related to the development of drugs. 

The PET Act is sponsored by the Humane Society. Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) and Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) are co-authors of the legislation.

“It is inhumane and unacceptable to subject dogs and cats to toxicity testing that has no medical value,” said Senator Wiener.  “These animals deserve to be treated with dignity and given good lives. Many of us have dogs or cats in our lives, and we see them as members of our family. Imagine if they were subjected to this kind of testing for no good reason. It’s far past time to end the practices that force these animals to undergo unnecessary pain, suffering, and death.”

“The citizens of California are being heard, and in a historic step, the Senate has voted to end toxicity testing on dogs,” said Sabrina Ashjian, California State Director for the Humane Society of the United States. “Californians have been trailblazers for creating a more humane world for animals. Dogs used for toxicity testing are subjected to painful experiments, and I am incredibly thankful to Senator Wiener for paving the way to make our state the first in the nation to put an end to this suffering.”