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Air Transport: No Cargo, No Cure

Getting from Point A to Point B is a simple concept we often take for granted. Commercial airlines are not only responsible for the safe delivery of human passengers to their destination, but they also safely and humanely transport research animals. Unfortunately, opponents of animal research have engaged in tactics of harassment, protests and public smear campaigns in an effort to end the transportation of vital animal models involved in studies worldwide, which stand to better both human and animal health.

A lack of availability of certain research animal models could mean the future of medical progress is jeopardized. That's why several medical research organizations have begun speaking out regarding the imperative nature of research animal transportation. 

NABR's Official Complaint

NABR filed an official complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regarding the refusal of major airlines to carry animals for the purpose of research. The docket closed for comments on Dec. 6, 2018, with comments of support from 156 organizations, representing hundreds of thousands of research professionals. Additionally, hundreds of individuals in the research community commented, expressing their support for NABR's complaint. We are still waiting for DOT to release its final decision.

Take me to the Complaint


The following organizations have filed comments in support of the complaint:

  • AAALAC International
  • AbbVie Inc.
  • Academy of Laboratory Animal Veterinary Technicians and Nurses
  • Agenda Resource Management
  • American Association for Laboratory Animal Science
  • American Association of Immunologists
  • American Brain Coalition
  • American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine
  • American College of Neuropsychopharmacology
  • American College of Toxicology
  • American College of Veterinary Pathologists
  • American Federation of Aviculture, Inc.
  • American Neurological Association
  • American Physiological Society
  • American Psychological Association
  • Americans for Medical Progress
  • American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
  • The American Society of Andrology
  • American Society of Animal Science
  • American Society of Clinical Psychopharmacology
  • American Society of Laboratory Animal Practitioners
  • American Society of Primatologists
  • American Veterinary Medical Association
  • Arizona State University School of Life Sciences
  • Associated Medical Schools of New York
  • Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology
  • Association of American Medical Colleges
  • Association of American Universities
  • Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges
  • Association of Primate Veterinarians
  • Association of Public and Land Grant Universities
  • Animal Health Institute
  • Axion Research Foundation
  • Basel Declaration Society
  • Baylor College of Medicine
  • BFC Israel
  • Bioculture (Mauritius) Ltd.
  • Bridge the Gap
  • Brown University
  • California Biomedical Research Association
  • California Institute for Medical Research
  • Camarney S.L.U.
  • Cardiovascular Research Institute-UCSF Zebrafish Shared Facility
  • Carolina Center for Neurostimulation
  • Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
  • Charles River
  • Coalition for the Life Sciences
  • College on Problems of Drug Dependence
  • Columbia Center for Translational Immunology
  • Columbia University Institute of Comparative Medicine
  • Comparative Biosciences, Inc.
  • Cornell University
  • Council on Governmental Relations
  • Drexel University
  • Duke University Laboratory Animal Resources
  • Duquesne University
  • The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University
  • Ellegaard Gottingen Minipigs
  • Emory University
  • Envigo
  • European Animal Research Association
  • European College of Laboratory Animal Medicine
  • European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations
  • Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
  • Federation of European Laboratory Animal Science Associations
  • Federation of European Neuroscience Societies
  • Harvard University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences Office of Animal Resources
  • Helsinki Institute of Life Science
  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute Janelia Research Campus
  • Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
  • Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association
  • Indiana University
  • Interpharma
  • Institutional Officials Consortium
  • International Mammalian Genome Society
  • International Society for Stem Cell Research
  • The Jackson Laboratory
  • JMC Welfare International Ltd.
  • Johns Hopkins University -signed by Professor and Vice Provost for Research
  • International Society for Transgenic Technologies
  • Laboratory Animal Breeders Association of North America, Inc.
  • Laboratory of Pharmacology and Toxicology
  • La Jolla Institute for Immunology
  • Louisiana State University
  • The Mannheimer Foundation, Inc.
  • Massachusetts Society for Medical Research
  • The Max Planck Institute for Neuroscience
  • McLaughlin Research Institute for Biomedical Sciences
  • McLean Hospital
  • MD Anderson Cancer Center
  • Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Merck KGaA
  • The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research
  • Michigan State University
  • Musella Foundation
  • National Animal Interest Alliance
  • National Association for the Advancement of Animal Science
  • National Association of Veteran’s Research and Education Foundations
  • National Primate Research Centers
  • The Neuropsychopharmacology Translational Research Unit of the Albacete General Hospital (Spain)
  • New Jersey Association for Biomedical Research
  • New York University
  • New York University School of Medicine
  • Northwest Association for Biomedical Research
  • Northwestern University
  • Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation
  • Noveprim Ltd.
  • Oregon Health & Science University
  • Partners Healthcare
  • Pennsylvania Society for Biomedical Research
  • The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council
  • Pfizer Inc.
  • The Poultry Science Association Inc.
  • PreLabs, LLC
  • Research4life
  • RxGen
  • Scripps Research
  • Shriners Hospital for Children-Canada/McGill University
  • Sinclair Bio-Resources
  • Sinclair Research
  • Sleep Research Society
  • Smithers Avanza Toxicology Services LLC
  • Society for Neuroscience
  • Society for Research on Biological Rhythms
  • Society of Toxicology
  • States United for Biomedical Research
  • Taconic Biosciences
  • Takeda Pharmaceuticals
  • Texas Society for Biomedical Research
  • Tulane University
  • The Society of University Surgeons
  • Understanding Animal Research
  • Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • University of Durham
  • University of Hawaii System
  • University of Houston Division of Research
  • University of Illinois
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • University of Maryland School of Medicine
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Minnesota Research Animal Resources
  • University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center
  • The University of Oklahoma
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Pennsylvania Animal Welfare
  • University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
  • The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center
  • VetEquip Inc.
  • Wake Forest University
  • Washington Animal Research Network
  • Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine
  • Yale University
  • Zoological Association of America
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FAQ on Transportation of Lab Animals

Modern medical research, including research using animals, is necessary to understanding disease and creating medicines to improve human and animal lives and reduce suffering.  Every known medical breakthrough known has a basis in animal research and all of the top 25 most prescribed drugs were developed with the assistance of animal models.  To learn more about the indispensable role of animal research, watch a brief PSA by the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) by clicking here.

Biomedical research is conducted in universities and commercial laboratories across the globe.  Important breakthroughs are typically dependent on collaborative efforts from different laboratories in many states and countries.

Successful research depends on a reliable source of healthy laboratory animals.  The best way of achieving this is through a global supply and transportation chain. Animals obtained from the same source have consistent genetics allowing scientists to better interpret data from animal studies.   Professional breeders with highly controlled environments produce disease free animals with special characteristics important in studying human disease.

A shared source of genetically defined and healthy animals dramatically reduces the total number of animals required for a research program.  A striking benefit of collaboration is the refinement of animal use.   By including collaborators with the highest expertise and the best modern methodology to conduct animal studies, better data is produced.

Without the ability to transport laboratory animals from licensed commercial breeders and between research facilities, each research site would have to breed its own animals.  This would be costly and would unnecessarily increase the number of animals for research.

Experienced and licensed professional transport companies are used to safely move laboratory animals. Animals are transported in vehicles equipped with temperature and humidity monitors and controls.  Travel routes are designed to take the shortest time reasonable to reduce travel stress.  To keep the journey as brief as possible, animals are frequently transported via airplane.

During transport, animals are provided with food, water and appropriate temperatures and conditions. Shipping containers are designed for proper ventilation and to protect animals from escape or injury.  Bedding materials are provided for comfort and are specific to the needs of each species.  Veterinarians specializing in the care of laboratory animals coordinate the shipping process, working with trained staff who monitor animals throughout the shipping process.

It is often in the best interests of an animal to be born and raised in areas with a climate well suited to the welfare of their species and where year-round outdoor housing is available.   Nonhuman primates most commonly used in research are native to tropical and subtropical regions, and breeding facilities in those regions can provide captive animals with a suitable environment.  These captive bred animals are reared to young adulthood before being moved to research facilities around the world.

The preferred source for research animals is a professional breeder. These producers are dedicated to supplying healthy, high quality animals to the research community.  Animals are obtained from licensed, inspected and accredited facilities that employ experienced handlers, caretakers, and veterinarians.  The research community demands high quality standards for food, water, sanitation and welfare for research animals, creating conditions that often exceed those of typical house pets.

The regulated transportation of laboratory animals is very safe.  Industry statistics show there is an error rate of less than 1% for either land or air transportation of animals.  Most of these errors do not impact the health or welfare of the shipment, so the actual impact on animal safety is even lower.

Without the ability to transport laboratory animals, research would be restricted to fewer locations and would lose the contributions of many talented scientists.  Further, scientists would not always be able to use the most appropriate model to study a disease or response to a medication, delaying or stopping much needed medical advances.

The development of new medicines would slow, or even stop, denying cures and treatments to the people who need them.  Research institutions would have to divert precious funding, manpower and laboratory space to breeding animals, taking resources away from important research.

Scientific collaboration across the world would be hampered by inconsistency in their research animals and difficulty interpreting data.  Without the ability to transport laboratory animals by air, the research community would be unable to provide the best possible conditions for shipping animals quickly and safely.  Without air transportation options, animals would often be subject to longer and more stressful transportation by land or sea.