Written by Kitty Block / The Humane Society of the United States
It is a bleak life for the approximately 60,000 dogs and 20,000 cats used in testing and research in U.S. laboratories each year. In March, we revealed the sad plight of some of these animals when we did an undercover investigation at a contract laboratory in Michigan that was testing pesticides, drugs, dental implants and more on beagles and hounds. The dogs we encountered, much like all animals used in research, were born in facilities that breed dogs specifically for use in research, testing and education. In the course of testing, they endured such treatment as having chemicals poured into their chests and devices implanted into their bodies. Once testing was over, the animals were euthanized.
These animals spent almost every hour of their short lives behind bars in cold steel cages, never knowing what it is like to play fetch or lie in the sun or roll over happily for a belly rub.
Most Americans would agree that this is no life for a companion animal, and that’s certainly our view. Our Animal Research Issues campaign and our state directors have been working to pass legislation that gives dogs and cats used in research an opportunity to live life as adopted pets once their time in the laboratories has come to an end. I am excited to report that 10 states, including Minnesota, Maryland, New York, California, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, Illinois and Nevada, have passed such laws in just the last five years, with Washington the latest to do so after its legislature passed a bill last month.
Michigan is also considering such a bill, and so are Oregon, Massachusetts and New Jersey. Recently, Teddy, one of the beagles who was part of our undercover investigation, and who was used in an unnecessary one-year pesticide test contracted by Dow Agrosciences (Corteva Agriscience), was at the Michigan statehouse, lobbying for HB 4496, there. Teddy was released from the laboratory as a result of our investigation and was adopted into a loving home through the Michigan Humane Society.
The state bills address a deficiency in the law, which regulates the care and use of research animals while they are in the laboratory, but does not offer any protection to the animals once the research projects end, other than mandating humane euthanasia. States that have passed the laws facilitate an open relationship between research laboratories and non-profit animal adoption and rescue organizations. Together, they can work to place the animals after testing is over. This should be a no-brainer, and we are excited to see more and more states adopting these commonsense laws.
There is a new bill in Congress too, the Humane Retirement Act H.R. 2850, sponsored by Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., and Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., that would ensure that dogs and cats used in testing or research being carried out by federal facilities within the Department of Health and Human Services are adopted into suitable homes.
Those who have adopted former research dogs and cats can attest to the resilience and affection of these animals once they are given the chance to flourish in a home environment. Teddy’s family says he took some time to bark but is finding his voice and loves to romp with his beagle sister, Cleo. In fact, all 32 of the beagles who were released in the aftermath of our investigation have gone on to find homes.
Our goal at the HSUS is to end all harmful research on animals. Until that day arrives, we need to ensure that dogs and cats in laboratories get an opportunity to move on to happier lives at least after the testing is over. Please join us in asking your representative in Congress to support the Humane Retirement Act. And if you live in Michigan, Oregon, Massachusetts or New Jersey, please place a polite call to your state legislators and ask them to support bills giving dogs and cats used in research a much-deserved second lease on life.