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Surgical Artificial Insemination of Dogs is an Animal Welfare issue

Surgical Artificial Insemination: what is it and why it needs to end

The NSW government has decided to overturn the proposed ban on a painful procedure that is outlawed overseas and not recommended in Australia by the RSPCA.

This procedure is called surgical artificial insemination (SAI) and it’s used to impregnate dogs via a painful and potentially dangerous surgical process. In NSW, this process is used on 80 per cent of female Greyhounds and the rate is similar in other parts of Australia. It’s also used by other dog breeders.

Academic Sarah Pollard Williams
Veterinary science professor, Sarah Pollard Williams, of Charles Sturt University, says that SAI is the process of anaesthetising a female dog at the time of ovulation and incising her abdomen.

“The surgeon then locates the dog’s uterus and injects it with frozen semen, before returning the uterus to the abdomen. The female Greyhound then has to carry pups to term with an abdominal incision that has cut through every abdominal layer, including supporting muscle, which means an extremely painful pregnancy for the dog,” said vet Sarah.

The procedure is not to be confused with ‘artificial insemination, a much less invasive procedure, which involves the deposition of sperm into the uterus through the vagina and cervix. This is a common procedure around the world, for both dogs and humans, and poses much less risk.

Sarah said the ethics of SAI on dogs have been questioned by vets all around the world.

“This has led to it being banned in England and several EU countries. Yet, this procedure is still legal in Australia, despite both the RSPCA and the Australian Veterinary Association being against it,” she said.

The main reasons why SAI using frozen semen is popular in the Greyhound racing industry, are that it offers convenience and saves money. This is because it overcomes the need to transport the animals, allows the use of semen after a Greyhound’s death and reduces the need to keep males in breeding kennels.

But the industry isn’t focused on breeding just any dogs, it’s focused on breeding winners. This is why using the semen or womb of a champion racing dog is a popular practice.

However, there are many veterinary disadvantages, as listed by Professor Gary England and Professor Kate Millar who say SAI:

✔️ causes physical and psychological trauma to the Greys

✔️ could potentially allow for the overuse of a male

✔️ could possibly allow for confusion of parentage.

Another risk that the procedure poses, particularly in Greyhounds, is the use of anaesthetics.

Greyhounds are often at slightly more risk for general anaesthetic than most other dog breeds, as the anaesthetic effects last longer. If there’s even a minor surgical bleed related to the procedure, this could increase the risk of blood clotting failure because Greyhounds have a tendency to break down clots quickly in the body,” said vet Sarah.

Meanwhile, after two rounds of public consultation, a proposal was made, to prohibit surgical artificial insemination in an early draft of the Animal Welfare Bill 2022. However, the ban was met with steep opposition from the NSW greyhound racing industry, so the NSW government decided that the ban will not be included in the final version of the Bill.

Sentient President (The Veterinary Institute for Animal Ethics) Dr Rosemary Elliott

Despite this, many specialists in veterinary reproduction advocate for transcervical insemination as the most effective way of inseminating a greyhound.

Vet Sarah said this method of insemination is widely used around the world, and is done via a vaginal and cervical catheter.

“It takes only a matter of minutes with the dog fully conscious, thus avoiding the risks associated with general anaesthesia and open abdominal surgery. In fact, numerous reports have shown that transcervical insemination is just as effective as SAI, with the added bonus of safety and comfort for the dogs,” she said.

A study done at The University of Nebraska-Lincoln found that “neither transcervical insemination nor surgical insemination was significantly better than the other”. Fifty per cent of the dogs conceived when inseminated using the transcervical method, and 54.5 per cent of the dogs conceived when inseminated using the surgical method”.

A nine-year study from New Zealand on 1,146 dogs objectively concluded that there is “no difference in whelping rate” after either transcervical insemination or surgical artificial insemination. Little wonder then that the RSPCA NSW has said:

“There is no justifiable reason for this procedure where non-surgical, anaesthetic-free, minimally invasive, effective alternatives exist, including for the use of frozen semen. The risks and discomfort associated with undertaking surgical artificial insemination are unnecessary with trans-cervical artificial insemination now available”

Ultimately, the NSW Government’s approach to SAI will inevitably have a negative impact on Australia’s standard of animal welfare.

Sentient's Dr Rosemary Elliott
Dr. Rosemary Elliott, President of Sentient, The Veterinary Institute for Animal Ethics, said "if surgical artificial insemination continues to be used in this country despite the scientific evidence, Australia’s standard of animal welfare will stay disastrously and embarrassingly low.”

She said when giving evidence to the NSW Parliament earlier this year:

"Our animal welfare regulatory system is broken. It fails the majority of animals because the Department of Primary Industries has a conflict of interest arising from having as their core business aims the promotion and profitability of the industries they are attempting to regulate.

It is not appropriate for the DPI to hold responsibility for animal welfare at the state or national level. Those who care about the welfare of animals have had enough of the lack of independence, science and transparency in how animal welfare standards are developed and likewise of the failures in oversight and enforcement."

What can you do about SAI on dogs?

1. Email the NSW Agriculture Minister and ask him to ban SAI.

2. Also, please share this article with people you know who are interested in animal welfare.

written by Lina Yordanova, Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds, October 2022 for Australian Dog Lover

About Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds

CPG is a dedicated group of people across Australia who work together to inform the public about the cruelties of Greyhound racing. 
Learn more by following their channels on: FacebookWebsiteInstagrammedia coverage.

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