How are Ferrets used in Medical Research?
Most are unaware, but ferrets are regularly used in human medical research. Unlike rabbits or rodents, ferrets are not used in cosmetic research.
Ferrets catch/transmit human flu viruses, so they have been used to test flu vaccines for nearly 100 years. They are used to study Covid & other respiratory illnesses. But they might also be used in studies for gastrointestinal or heart diseases, reproductive medicine, and many other areas of human health. Each year there are usually about 6,500 ferrets living in research labs.
Individual research facilities may include biochemical companies, hospitals, and universities that conduct medical research. Schools of veterinary medicine may also house ferrets.
Due to threats from protesters, medical research facilities do not publicize using animals. However, all must report animal usage to the USDA. You can search and read annual reports from laboratories on the USDA.gov website. You can also find information from organizations that work for the rights of animals, such as the National Anti-Vivisection Society, Rise for Animals, or the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
While too often, animals used in medical research are euthanized to analyze results, not all must. Some animals may not have been used in any invasive testing or could just be “spares.”
Each facility that uses animals in its work sets their own procedures for what happens when animals are no longer needed. Many say they adopt out to students, interns, or staff. Others may have an adoption application process for members of the community.
In some states, new laws require animals – usually cats & dogs – that can be adopted be offered for adoption. It is up to the specific facility and the doctors in charge of the research to determine if and which animals are considered releasable.