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An Act Protecting Research Animals

S. 2463: An Act protecting research animals

MSPCA Position: Support
Sponsors: Senator Bruce Tarr; Representatives Carolyn Dykema, Michelle DuBois
Status: Released favorably from the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture on January 13, 2020. Referred to the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

This bill requires a research institution or product testing facility that intends to euthanize a dog or cat for any purpose other than scientific, medical or educational research to offer the dog or cat for adoption to an animal shelter or animal rescue organization or through private placement before euthanizing the dog or cat.

This provides an opportunity for dogs and cats to live a life in a home as an adopted pet once their time in the research laboratory has come to an end—an opportunity that each of these dogs and cats deserve.

Current law: Federal law regulates the care and use of research animals while they are in the laboratory, but does not offer any protection to the animal once the research project ends, except regarding humane euthanasia. This legislation addresses the deficiency by facilitating an open relationship between laboratories and non-profit animal adoption organizations and by codifying the option for private placement of retired research dogs and cats where research facilities have established programs.

Proven model for success: There are a number of research facilities across the country that have instituted successful adoption programs for dogs and cats. Additionally, California, New York, Connecticut, Minnesota, Illinois, Nevada, Maryland, Delaware, Rhode Island, Washington, and Oregon have already passed similar legislation – providing an opportunity for dogs and cats to live a life in a home as an adopted pet, once their time in the laboratory has come to an end. People who have adopted former research dogs and cats attest to the resilience and affection of these animals, once they are given the chance to flourish in a home environment.

Flexibility and discretion re: adoption: The legislation is drafted so that research facilities are not forced to give any animals to specific groups. It would simply require that, once an institution makes the determination that a dog or cat is no longer needed for research, is healthy, and doesn’t pose a risk to the health or safety of the public, the research facility must then reach out to an animal shelter or rescue organization to ascertain whether it can assist with placement in an adoptive home, or opt for private placement. This legislation does not require shelter or rescue organizations to take the animals offered by facilities and could decline to do so.

Does not impact the conduct of research: This legislation does not impact the research itself; it simply offers these animals the chance to live out whatever time they have left in an adoptive home. Since discretion regarding when to retire and offer animals for adoption remains entirely with the research facilities, there are no concerns of regulatory burdens.

Companion animals deserve the opportunity to live in a home: By formalizing the practice of adoption for research animals, this legislation benefits dogs and cats that make or will make contributions to scientific development in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

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