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New York Students Gain Right to Know for Dissection Choice Policy

The HSUS and the Humane Society of New York call on schools to abide by new provision in state’s humane education law.

This school year, middle- and high-school students throughout New York will be reminded of their legal right to choose when it comes to animal dissection. An amendment to the Education law, signed in August 2010 by former Gov. Paterson and which takes effect this year, requires schools to notify students and parents of the right of students to abstain from animal dissection and to abstain from witnessing the dissection of animals without being penalized.

The legislation, A.3467-B, was proposed by the Humane Society of New York and was introduced by Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, D/WF-Manhattan, and Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer, D/WF-Mamaroneck. It charges the board of education or trustees of a school district to develop a policy to give reasonable notice to students and parents about their right to opt out of animal dissection as students with moral or religious objections may do under the existing law.

“Over the years, we have been contacted by many students who expressed moral objections to dissection but who were not informed by their teachers of their right to do an alternate project,” said Elinor Molbegott, legal counsel/animal issues, Humane Society of New York. “The new notice requirement should not only help to effectuate the dissection opt-out provision in the humane education law, but should also encourage a dialogue about respect, kindness, and compassion.”

Currently 15 states have dissection choice laws or policies in place which typically require the school to notify students and/or their parents at the beginning of the course.

"This law will empower students and their families to abstain from a practice that they find ethically objectionable.  It takes the onus off the students to assert their rights, and places it on the administration and teachers," said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal.  "I am proud of my efforts, and the efforts of the Humane Society of New York and The Humane Society of the United States to get this law passed.  I am sure that many students will have a happier school year knowing that they will not have to participate in a practice to which they are opposed.”

The Humane Society of the United States urged passage of the bill in August 2010 on behalf of its more than 800,000 New York supporters.

“Adopting this measure has brought New York into line with best practice,” said Patrick Kwan, New York state director for The HSUS. “The mandate greatly improves the existing law which many students and parents do not know about and makes life-science education more fair and democratic.”

Students and teachers interested in accessing alternatives to dissection may find resources through the HSUS’ Humane Education Loan Program at: www.humanesociety.org/help.

Media Contact: Katie Jarl: 301-258-1483, kjarl@humanesociety.org