On May 20, 2014 Minnesota became the first state to mandate that healthy dogs or cats used in research at tax-payer funded facilities must be released for adoption to the public following the conclusion of that research.

As noted by Paula Clifford, MLA, RLATG, CVT, the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Society for Biomedical Research, some issues for consideration when adopting former research animals include:

  • There should be a safe, reliable program established before research dogs and cats are required to be adopted out.
  • Research dogs require patient, loving homes.
  • Care must be taken to ensure that these animals do not end up in shelters, contributing to the over-population of unwanted pets in shelters.
  •  Proper infrastructure has to be developed to ensure:
    • compliance with the law (The Animal Welfare Act has requirements regarding final disposition of “covered” animals),
    • limited liability for the research organization, and
    • a sustainable adoption for the pet and owner.

Several other states have bills similar to Minnesota’s.  However, legislation is not necessary to allow for the adoption of suitable research animals after the research has been concluded.  The Beagle Rescue League, Inc., “a 501c(3) recognized non-profit, all volunteer organization dedicated to rescuing beagles . . .work[s] cooperatively with research facilities and shelters to rescue, rehabilitate, and re-home unwanted beagles while providing public education about responsible beagle ownership.”

The Beagle Rescue League hosts a division titled, “Lab to Leash,” which “brings to the forefront the working relationships that are possible between the biomedical research community and the rescue community.”  Almost 300 beagles have reportedly been adopted through these efforts.

This extraordinary program is a clear demonstration of how successful collaboration works to the benefit of all, without the need for legislation.