Regulation of Dogs and Cats in Research

SB 148 and SB 149, sponsored by Sen. Polehanki and Sen. Hertel, respectively, sought to regulate the use/disposition of animals in research including mandatory reporting on numbers of animals owned, used, and released by research facilities, mandatory requirement for adoption of research animals post-use, and other restrictions and penalties.

The legislation arose after an outcry by the animal rights community over the 2019 disposition of more than 30 beagles including Teddy, who had been used in safety pharmacology and toxicology studies. At least 13 states, including Minnesota, Illinois, and Virginia, have passed similar laws.

The bills continue a concerted effort over many legislative sessions to restrict and preferably prohibit (e.g., as HB 4849 would do) the use animals in research  at universities and private companies. They seek to impose rules on animal research despite the many stringent federal regulations in place that govern animal welfare.

MichBio led a coalition of Michigan industry and institutional stakeholders that responded to misinformation and misguided perceptions about the use of animals in research including implications over their welfare and the how the proposed legislation’s requirements would conflict with federal regulations.

MichBio and its partners were supportive of the bills’ intent, namely, to spur adoption of research dogs and cats post-study. However, as we pointed out early in the legislative process, policies governing adoption of such animals is already in place at various institutions and companies. In fact, many animals are adopted out annually. A few revisions were made to the bills as they passed out of the Senate and moved over to the House Agriculture Committee for consideration.

In written testimony to the Committee, we offered to lift our opposition if two key elements were amended and remove any conflict with federal requirements. First, federal law requires that the “Attending Veterinarian” is a defined role that has “authority to ensure the provision of adequate veterinary care and to oversee the adequacy of other aspects of animal care and use.” The Michigan bill as written does not acknowledge consideration beyond “health and safety” insofar as suitability for adoption, and thus restricts the Attending Veterinarian from assessing an animal’s behavior as criteria for adoption.

Secondly, the bills would still require facilities to report the number of dogs and cats used and adopted out in Michigan. it is understandable to desire reporting of numbers of adoptable animals for monitoring of research facilities, mechanisms for oversight of research facilities are robust and effective externally through Federal Law and assigned to USDA APHIS as well as through required internal mechanisms as described in the Animal Welfare Act. Annual reporting of animal numbers is part of this oversight. Lastly, legally mandated mechanisms exist for reporting of animal welfare concerns which receive prompt investigation by USDA APHIS. The addition of disclosure of numbers of adopted animals without the understanding of the complexity of decision making required to ensure the welfare of the potential adoptees can only lead to public concern and consequently the disruption of delivery of critical therapies for the world.

Unfortunately, the bills passed out of Committee as is. However, in the waning moments of the legislative session the bills went up for a vote of the full House, where substitute language was passed that accommodated our two concerns. The Governor signed the legislation into law in mid-December.

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