Bill spares lives of research dogs, cats

A beagle from the Rescue + Freedom Project visited Legislative Hall Tuesday before the state Senate voted to approve a bill to keep research pets from being euthanized. Submitted photos/Delaware Senate Democratic Caucus

DOVER — The General Assembly has passed legislation that would forbid lab animals from being euthanized after finishing their time as test subjects.

The measure now goes to Gov. John Carney. A spokesman for the governor said the bill is being reviewed.

Senate Bill 101 would require any entity that receives public money, works on research with a higher education institute or has tax-exempt status to put up for adoption any cats or dogs used for scientific tests or education.

An animal with “substantial medical conditions or safety risks preventing successful integration into an adoptive home” would be exempt from the requirement.

The measure passed the House on party lines last week and was approved by senators Tuesday with no votes in opposition.

“I’m honestly amazed that this was even a debate,” main sponsor Sen. Jack Walsh, D-Stanton, said in a statement. “We have healthy animals that research labs don’t want. We have local shelters that are willing to care for them. We have families that might want to adopt them.

“It defies reason that anyone would choose to euthanize instead of giving them a second lease on life. If just one of these animals becomes a pet, all of the work that went into this bill will be worth it.”

The proposal passed the Senate overwhelmingly in June, but the House did not vote on it until this month. Because representatives amended it to require research facilities to contract with an animal shelter or rescue organization, the bill then went back to the Senate.

The version approved by the Senate last year gave facilities the option of working with outside groups.

House Republicans expressed concerns over the measure forbidding entities from running their own adoption programs, with Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, R-Clayton, noting it could force some to end their current initiatives even if they work well. Some legislators were also troubled by the fact no data was provided about the present fate of Delaware research animals

“If we are going to pass a bill like this, we should vote fully informed,” Rep. Rich Collins, R-Millsboro, said in a statement.
According to the bill summary, 85 dogs and 82 cats were used in research in the First State in 2015.

Sen. Jack Walsh, D-Stanton, pets a beagle from the Rescue + Freedom Project.

“Every animal deserves the opportunity to find a loving home,” Rep. Kim Williams, D-Newport, said in a statement.

Two retired research beagles, George and Gigi, were present in the Senate Chamber Tuesday as their owners spoke in favor of the bill.
According to the Rescue + Freedom Project, a nonprofit that advocates for former research animals, beagles are often used as test subjects because of their friendly nature.

The Pew Charitable Trusts says seven states require organizations to at least attempt to have animals adopted once they are no longer used for research.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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