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New Law Gives Cats And Dogs In Research Labs A Second Chance At Life

A New York law says they must be put up for adoption when tests are over.
A former laboratory research beagle just before setting his paws on grass for the first time in Los Angeles, June 2016. His r
A former laboratory research beagle just before setting his paws on grass for the first time in Los Angeles, June 2016. His release and adoption were negotiated by the Beagle Freedom Project.

Life has gotten a little brighter for some lab animals in New York state.

A law passed Tuesday says that all state-funded research labs must make dogs and cats used as test subjects available for adoption — as opposed to euthanizing them — when testing is complete.

“This is a humane law that, for these animals, provides the opportunity for a new lease on life,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “Dogs and cats are like members of the family for many New Yorkers and this action will allow for more four-legged friends to be adopted into a caring home.”

The law states that a licensed veterinarian will determine whether or not animals are suitable for adoption. Those animals that are suitable must be made available to animal shelters or rescue groups to be put up for adoption.

New York is the fifth state to pass such a law, following Minnesota, California, Connecticut and Nevada. Legislation is also pending in Illinois.

The New York measure was sponsored by Republican Sen. Phil Boyle and Democratic Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, and backed by the Beagle Freedom Project, a group dedicated to helping animals in research laboratories.

Though the Beagle Freedom Project works to protect a variety of animals, its name calls attention to the dog breed most commonly used in labs. Beagles are bred to be test subjects ― primarily for pharmaceutical research ― because their relatively small size and docile nature makes them easy to work with in lab settings.

An identification tattoo on the ear of a former laboratory research beagle in Los Angeles, June 2016. The beagle's release an
An identification tattoo on the ear of a former laboratory research beagle in Los Angeles, June 2016. The beagle's release and adoption were negotiated by the Beagle Freedom Project.

Retired research animals often need a lot of patience and special care to recover from what they’ve experienced, Beagle Freedom Project managing director Lorna Campbell told The Huffington Post last year.

“They are very fearful,” she said. “Most of them have never been outside.”

While the new law is good news for dogs and cats in the Empire State, it does not address other species commonly used in lab testing, like rats and rabbits. That said, Assemblywoman Rosenthal noted in an interview with the Albany Times-Union that the measure represents a move toward eliminating animal research altogether. 

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