Maryland has a groundbreaking new tool to help the state transition away from animal experiments. This week, Gov. Wes Moore signed HB 626/SB 560 into law, making Maryland the first state to require that animal laboratories contribute to a research fund that will be used to provide grants for scientists developing non-animal research alternatives.
We worked closely with the lawmakers who drafted the legislation, garnering support for the bill from non-animal methods developers and negotiating on final bill language with Maryland universities that conduct animal experiments to ensure adequate dedicated funding for the grants.
Millions of dogs, cats, monkeys, mice and other animals currently suffer in U.S. laboratories. Non-animal alternatives such as organs-on-chips, robotics, computer models and other advanced technologies have the potential to dramatically reduce and eventually eliminate animal use in research and testing. But inadequate funding from government agencies, companies and universities limits the pool of resources available to speed their development.
It's not just animals who are negatively affected when funding is directed to animal experiments instead of non-animal alternatives—humans are as well. Because animals and humans are very different, results from animal experiments are often not applicable to people. For example, extensive evidence demonstrates that results from toxicity tests in animals often don’t accurately predict toxicity in humans. In fact, approximately 90% of drugs ultimately fail in human trials; about half of these failures are due to unexpected toxic effects in humans following animal tests.
The animal-based methods used today were developed decades ago. In contrast, non-animal alternatives are more sophisticated and effective, meaning that they can more accurately and effectively predict how the human body will respond to drugs, chemicals and treatments. These methods represent the very latest techniques that science has to offer, provide countless possibilities to improve our understanding and treatment of the human body, and will only continue to improve over time. Non-animal methods are also typically faster and less expensive than animal experiments.
With the passage of this law, Maryland has created a precedent for the transition toward the non-animal methods of the future. This funding shift will accelerate scientific discovery by allowing for early adoption of promising non-animal alternatives, giving the state a competitive advantage in the biotech market. And in Maryland next year, we’ll be working more on this issue by looking at ways to end unnecessary animal tests.
We are making progress on this bipartisan issue in other states as well:
- In Oregon and Rhode Island, proposed bills would ban the sale of cosmetics tested on animals.
- In California, a bill would strengthen an existing law that requires laboratories to replace animal testing with non-animal alternatives approved by government agencies.
- In Massachusetts, a bill would mandate that companies use alternative test methods when they are available for products such as cosmetics, pesticides, industrial chemicals and household cleaners.
- In Virginia, a new law will require publicly funded animal laboratory websites to include links to their U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection reports and annual reports, which detail the species and number of certain animals used in research and testing.
- In Michigan, Teddy’s Law, named in honor of one of the beagles released as a result of our 2018 undercover investigation at a Michigan laboratory, would require laboratories to ensure that dogs and cats used for testing have the opportunity to be adopted into loving homes after leaving the laboratory and to report the number of dogs and cats adopted out each year.
- In Pennsylvania, there’s legislation to bar breeding facilities with certain animal welfare violations from selling dogs and cats to laboratories, defund painful procedures involving dogs and cats, and ensure that animals in laboratories have an opportunity to be adopted.
The world will increasingly benefit from the use of sophisticated non-animal alternatives that advance human health in ways we never thought possible. We are proud of our role in bringing the world ever closer to that future—while simultaneously working to reduce the suffering of animals in laboratories across the country.
Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.