In eight states already, healthy research cats and dogs are to be offered for adoption after the research is done, instead of being killed. And that number of states is growing. In more and more places the practice of saving healthy research animals is to become mandatory. This measure can potentially save the lives of thousands upon thousands of animals.
Since 2014, Minnesota, Connecticut, Nevada, California, Illinois and New York have all enacted these “Beagle Freedom” laws. Last month, Maryland’s Republican Gov. signed his state’s bill into law. And just last Tuesday, Delaware’s General Assembly passed a similar measure, sending it to Gov. John Carney for a signature.
“Every animal, who can, should be afforded the opportunity at life in a loving home after their time in the laboratory. That’s the very least we should do for them,” Kathleen Conlee, vice president of animal research issues for the Humane Society of the United States, told NBC News.
Nearly 61,000 dogs and nearly 19,000 cats lived in medical and scientific research laboratories in 2016, according to a report by the United States Department of Agriculture.
“These are compassionate, common-sense bills that don’t have a real downside,” said Matt Rossell, the director of advocacy, programs campaign and public policy at the Rescue + Freedom Project. “These animals have lived in a very stark environment that does not at all resemble what life looks like for dogs and cats in homes. Small cages, no potty training, they haven’t even had opportunities to be outside,” he said. “No fresh air. They haven’t even ever touched the grass.”
Skeptics say that the bills are not enforceable, but experts maintain that the laws are working.
“I actually think they’re quite effective. These science institutions are large and sophisticated and hyper-aware of public relations and don’t want to be shamed when animal welfare groups expose them for killing all of these animals,” said David Favre, a law professor at Michigan State University’s College of Law, whose expertise is animal law.
“And it’s not going to hurt (the institutions) to take the high ground. These (laws) don’t curb their research, they just help the dogs,” said Favre. “And besides,” he added, “you don’t really want to go and arrest scientists anyway.”
If more such bills pass in all US states, we may be looking at a drastically different and better future for countless research animals.