MPs want to keep laboratory ban on stray cats and dogs

Bobby the terrier Image copyright bbc
Image caption Some MPs are concerned about the impact of a new European Union directive on animal testing

Animal welfare campaigners are urging the government to rule out the prospect of unwanted pets being used in scientific experiments.

A number of MPs from all sides have signed a Commons early day motion calling for a ban on the use of stray cats and dogs in experiments to remain in place.

The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) claims a European Union directive, due to be implemented in 2013, could allow the removal of the ban in some cases.

The BUAV's director of policy, Dr Nick Palmer, said: "Britain has the option to say no we'll stick to the current ban, but for some reason the government has said we'll adopt a less restrictive wording and allow it in some circumstances."

Nic Dakin, Labour MP for Scunthorpe, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experimentation, is seeking clarification.

Speaking to the Sunday Politics in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, Mr Dakin said: "In some parts of Europe stray animals are used for experiments, the argument being you don't have to breed animals for experiments. I don't agree with it, but that is the argument.

"In the UK that has not been the case and I very much hope the government takes steps to ensure that cannot be the case in the future."

The government insists that certain types of scientific research using animals is essential in the development of new drugs and the advancement of medical technology.

Animal testing is licensed by the Home Office.

A Home Office spokesman stated EU rules "prohibit the use of feral animals in research and the possibility of exemption is extremely narrow and unlikely".

While the likelihood of stray pets being used in experiments may seem remote, campaigners are calling for a House of Commons debate to discuss an issue they believe will be of concern to a nation of animal lovers.

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