WASHINGTON — Now-famous beagles rescued from a breeding and research center in Virginia were on Capitol Hill Thursday as an animal welfare group and a California congressman pushed for legislation that would promote the adoption of research animals.
“It is unfortunate that animals are still allowed to be used in testing. That will hopefully go away very, very soon. But while it’s happening, we can do better,” Rep. Tony Cardenas said.
The beagles came from a controversial Envigo medical dog breeding facility in Cumberland County that closed under pressure from federal regulators due to a series of animal welfare violations, the Virginia Mercury reported. In May, federal agents seized hundreds of dogs and puppies found “in acute distress.”
In July, a judge approved a plan to move 4,000 beagles from the facility to shelters for adoption, making national headlines. One of the adopters turned out to be Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, and her husband, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, who now live in California.
On Thursday, several of the beagles were on Capitol Hill to be petted and exhibited at a “meet and greet” and to help clarify a point about animal research.
Cardenas, a California Democrat, introduced a bill last October that would require any facility that receives funding from the National Institutes of Health to make “reasonable efforts” to adopt any dog, cat or rabbit deemed suitable for adoption once That animal is no longer needed. for biomedical and behavioral research.
The legislation has only four other co-sponsors, Joe Neguse of Colorado, Jimmy Panetta of California, Donald Payne Jr. of New Jersey and Dina Titus of Nevada.
Asked about the strategy to reach the level of support the bill would need to pass the House and Senate, Cárdenas told the States Briefing Room that he plans to push back against criticism from the medical research industry that the measure is “too onerous”.
“I don’t buy that,” he said.
Cárdenas also hopes that more of his colleagues will express their support for the legislation.
Monica Engebretson, North America campaign director for Cruelty Free International, said 15 states require animal research facilities to offer unwanted dogs and cats for adoption. But she believes a nationwide law is needed.
Engebretson said the group has had some success in the past enacting policy change through annual legislation that funds the NIH, which is based in Bethesda, Maryland, and hopes to do so again with this current policy proposal. .
The NIH website says it is “committed to continuing to develop alternative non-animal model methods,” though it notes that “we are not at a point where alternative approaches can completely replace the use of animals at this time.”
“Alternatives simply cannot accurately replicate or model all biological and behavioral aspects of human disease,” NIH writes. “Until that time, animal models will continue to be an integral part of NIH-supported research.”
The NIH also has an Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare.
But neither its Public Health Service Policy on the Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals nor its Guide to the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals include proposals or suggestions as to whether cats, dogs, and rabbits should be made available for adoption once once they are no longer needed.
The Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare states on its website that it “supports the safety and security of animals and reminds institutions that their policies should clarify the disposition of animals acquired for research after research is complete, which which may include adoption. It also says it “will not assume legal or financial responsibility for any adoption program” of research animals.