We are delighted that on Thursday 17th September in the House of Lords, Lord Astor of Hever, a fantastic supporter of Medical Detection Dogs, asked the government about what it is doing to support the use of dogs in the detection of human disease. In his response to Lord Astor the Health Minister acknowledged that dogs “could indeed make a huge a contribution to the early detection of certain cancers”. He also said that both the Department of Health and NHS England “will follow with keen interest” the prostate cancer detection trials that we have just started in collaboration with Milton Keynes University Hospital.
Other Peers who spoke during the question time also highlighted the huge potential of dogs to detect cancer and other human disease. Lord Ribeiro, a former President of the Royal College of Surgeons said that “as far as prostate cancer is concerned, a man’s best friend probably is his dog” and called on the government to fund research and a clinical trial. In answering Lord Ribeiro the Minister acknowledged that “there seems to be some evidence regarding the number of false positives—for example, the use of dogs to sniff urine is considerably more accurate than more conventional forms of detecting cancer”.
Baroness Ludford told the House of Lords about our very own Claire Moon and her dog Magic. Lady Ludford talked of the need for the NHS to do a serious cost-benefit exercise on its investment in measures to assist those with type 1 diabetes, and asked the Government to “seriously look at extending… access to detection dogs”.
In response the Minister referred to the comparatively low cost of training an alert assistance dog and said that “unquestionably there is considerable evidence to suggest that dogs can make a real contribution as regards people suffering from diabetes”.
The government is aware of our vital work and the incredible abilities of dogs to detect human disease. We are encouraged by the Minister’s responses but we urge the government to go further and take practical steps to help develop the innovative work we and others are doing into early detection techniques using dogs which have the potential to save millions of lives. We will continue to engage with the government and policy makers with the aim of advancing our research more quickly so that more lives are saved.