For nearly 10 months in 2002 and early 2003, a PETA investigator worked undercover at Sinclair Research Center, a laboratory hired by Iams, and discovered a dark and sordid secret beneath the wholesome image of the dog- and cat-food manufacturer. Dogs had gone crazy because they were confined to barren steel cages and cement cells, dogs were left piled on a filthy paint-chipped floor after chunks of muscle had been hacked from their thighs, dogs were surgically debarked, and horribly sick dogs and cats were neglected and left in cages to suffer without any veterinary care.
Footage shows that Iams representatives toured the facility and witnessed dogs who were circling in their cells and sweltering in the summer heat. Iams knew the truth yet did nothing to protect the animals.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture investigated PETA's complaint and agreed that the laboratory had failed to provide veterinary care and pain relief to suffering animals, failed to provide animals with adequate space, and failed to train employees—along with nearly 40 other violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. Sinclair Research Center paid a penalty of $33,000 for its violations.
After intense pressure from PETA and its supporters, Iams agreed to make the following significant changes in its testing program: Iams bowed to pressure and severed its ties with Sinclair Research Center. Iams ended all invasive and terminal experiments on dogs and cats. Iams agreed to begin conducting humane in-home tests for palatability studies. According to Iams, about 70 percent of the animals now in its tests reside at home with their families. In these studies, people volunteer their companion animals to participate in food and nutrition experiments from the comfort of their own homes. The human guardians can easily be trained to feed the animals and properly collect fecal and urine samples for laboratory analysis to determine the quality of the animal's food. "In-home" studies have been shown to work and have strong scientific support, as shown by the successful PetSci program, which was developed by Dr. Charles Abramson and Dr. Timothy Bowser of Oklahoma State University.
Even so, Iams still keeps up to 700 dogs and cats in its Dayton, Ohio, laboratory for non-invasive nutritional studies. They claim that this laboratory provides a decent environment for the animals, but they refuse to allow a PETA representative to see inside. Iams claims that some studies are too complex for in-home programs, but PETA urges Iams to collaborate with veterinary clinics for studies such as these. Veterinary clinics regularly see patients who suffer from ailments that a particular dog or cat food might help alleviate.
Iams has also refused to end invasive experiments on species other than dogs and cats. For one study, Iams gave Purdue University nearly $200,000 to conduct a two-year study in which experimenters taped the tails of mice to the tops of cages to keep their hind legs suspended in the air. This was done to cause muscular atrophy—the wasting away of muscle tissue. When PETA protested, the experiment was cut short.
Iams has also fought the release of information from a public university that had conducted a study funded by the company in which a painful disease was induced in dogs. What was Iams hiding?
Iams has made progress, but as an industry leader, it must send an even clearer message: No animal deserves the fate of those who remain in their laboratories. Safe, healthy cat and dog food does not require harming cats and dogs.
PETA continues to press Iams to ban conducting and funding invasive or terminal experiments on all species and to adopt 100 percent humane, non-invasive, and cage-free "in-home" testing, as many of Iams' compassionate competitors have done.
Until Iams agrees, we urge consumers to purchase dog and cat food from companies that do not test on animals. In the meantime, read about some other ways you can help the millions of animals every year who are abused and inadequately cared for?all in the name of research.