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Adopting Cats and Dogs from Research Facilities

According to information published by APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) more than 18,898 cats and 60,979 dogs were used as subjects of scientific and medical research, as well as for educational purposes, in 2016. While some dogs and cats are still obtained from Class B dealers, most dogs used in research today are bred either in laboratories or by private companies that breed and sell animals to meet the specific requirements of research protocols. After the experiment is completed, they are commonly euthanized, even though they may still be healthy and suitable for adoption.

While NAVS’ efforts strive to end the exploitation of animals in the name of science, including dogs and cats, we applaud efforts to show that the lives of these animals matter and that many of them are healthy enough to benefit from adoption. In response to this perceived problem in the lack of options for the disposition of dogs and cats at institutions of higher learning, legislation was introduced that would require research facilities that receive public funding to offer their cats and dogs for adoption instead of euthanizing them when they are no longer needed.

Two different options have been considered in finding homes for these animals. The first would permit private placement adoptions to allow students or staff members of the institution to adopt these animals directly without waiting for a formal adoption process through a rescue organization or shelter. The second option would require the research institution to enter into a contract with an animal rescue group or shelter. This provides a clear path to transition cats and dogs from the laboratory or testing facility to an adoption center that can offer these animals the possibility of living out the rest of their lives in loving homes. While the second option is more common, a combination of both paths to adoption would be ideal to serve everyone’s needs, especially those of the dogs and cats.

In 2014, Minnesota was the first state to pass a law that requires publicly-funded institutions of higher learning to adopt out their dogs and cats used for research and education when they are no longer needed. Since then, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada and New York have followed suit, and other states are also considering legislation to adopt a similar law.

While this law will not end the use of these animals for research, it does reflect a growing trend that recognizes that animals deserve to enjoy a good life after their time spent in a laboratory. 

A 2015 Gallup poll showed that 67% of Americans were “very” or “somewhat” concerned about animals used for research. The public largely agrees that animals no longer needed for research should be offered for adoption. Now we just have to convince legislators to join in the effort.

NAVS looks forward to the introduction—and passage—of similar measures in many other states in the years to come and is alerting our Take Action Thursday subscribers when there is an opportunity to persuade elected officials in their area to support legislation. Through our Sanctuary Fund, NAVS also provides critical funding to shelters and rescue organizations that are helping to make as many of these animals as possible adoptable.