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"Beagle Bill" Would Give Dogs and Cats Used in Research a Chance at a New Life

Jun 16, 2016

Credit freeimages.com/John Gardiner

They may not reach agreement on matters like ethics reform, but members of the State Legislature have agreed on the "Beagle Bill."

It's more formally known as the Research Animal Retirement Act, and it requires state-funded research facilities to make the dogs and cats used for testing available for adoption at the end of their studies with the exception of animals that are euthanized at the end of research for tissue and cell samples.

Dr. Jeff Wyatt, attending veterinarian at the University of Rochester, says the legislation won't affect the research program there because former UR lab animals have found permanent homes with staff and research technicians for 30 years.                    

"We have been, across almost all species, adopting out animals that are adoptable. That has ranged from fish and frogs to dogs and cats, ferrets, rabbits, pigs. We have probably been pioneering that effort."

Wyatt said primates used in research at the university have, in some cases, been sent to zoos or sanctuaries.

During fiscal 2015, the University of Rochester had 17 cats and 18 dogs enrolled in research studies.  Wyatt said the practice is becoming less common locally and nationally and has to be justified for scientific purposes when something unique about the animal’s anatomy is required to research a highly unmet health need.  The animals are bred for research purposes.

The "Beagle Bill" got its name because beagles, which are easily trained, are often used in research.

According to the Beagle Freedom Project, if the measure is signed by Governor Cuomo, New York would become the fifth state to pass the Beagle Bill.