Humane organizations are coming together to support bipartisan legislation to give dogs and cats used by laboratories the chance at a new home.
The bills are collectively known as “Teddy’s Law” in honor of a beagle rescued from a Michigan laboratory in 2019. Teddy’s life was spared following an undercover investigation of unnecessary pesticides and other tests conducted on dogs. This legislation, introduced by Michigan State Reps. Kevin Hertel, D-St. Clair Shores, and Tommy Brann, R-Wyoming, is supported by several animal welfare groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, Michigan Humane and local animal shelters and rescues in Michigan.
“Michigan has countless families that want to provide loving homes for animals used in research. Our bills will ensure that these dogs and cats make it to their forever homes,” said Hertel. “This is common sense, compassionate legislation, and I look forward to its passage.”
“Adoption programs, in addition to benefiting the animals, can decrease stress and improve morale among laboratory workers,” said Brann. “Passage of this legislation is a win for dogs and cats in Michigan laboratories and the workers who form bonds with these animals.”
House Bill 4881, sponsored by Rep. Hertel, would require research facilities to offer dogs or cats no longer used in research to a registered animal shelter located in Michigan for adoption, unless euthanizing the animal is required for health or safety reasons. The bill provides research facilities, as well as the shelters that accept the animals, immunity from civil liability if they act in good faith concerning the health and physical condition of the animal. House Bill 4882, sponsored by Rep. Brann, would require research facilities that use dogs and cats to submit an annual report to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development about those animals adopted during the preceding year and would establish civil penalties for failure to comply with adoption standards.
“Teddy’s Law will create a pathway for thousands of dogs and cats to find loving homes through the expert evaluation and placement of Michigan’s animal shelters,” said Molly Tamulevich, Michigan state director for the HSUS. “Every dog and cat deserves the opportunity to be part of a family, and these bills will ensure that they have the best possible chance at a happy life.”
"Michigan Humane wholeheartedly supports this legislation, which would give cats and dogs in research the chance they deserve to live their lives in a loving home as part of a family,” said Matt Pepper, CEO of Michigan Humane. “We stand ready to assist whenever we can to help these animals make this transition, and we have the resources and experience to ensure that these animals are responsibly placed in homes best suited to their individual needs."
In March of 2019, the Humane Society of the United States released an undercover investigation of the testing of various products, including pesticides, on dogs in a Mattawan, Michigan, laboratory. One test involved the force-feeding of fungicide to beagles. Thanks to the immense public pressure of hundreds of thousands of advocates, the laboratory agreed to end the test and release the beagles to Michigan Humane, where they were adopted into loving homes. Hundreds of other dogs at the facility did not have the same opportunity and were killed after they were used in experiments.
Federal law regulates the care and use of dogs and cats used in research while they are in the laboratory but does not offer any protection to the animals once the research ends, other than requiring that when facilities destroy them, they do so by euthanasia. Thirteen states, including Minnesota, Illinois and, most recently, Virginia have passed similar legislation.
Research animal adoption programs, in addition to benefiting the animals, can decrease stress and improve morale among laboratory workers. And unlike research facilities, local animal shelter organizations are experienced in conducting behavioral and medical evaluations to ensure dogs and cats are placed in the best possible homes. Adopters of former research dogs and cats can attest to the resilience and affection that these animals express when given the chance to flourish in home environments.