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FDA endorses lab animal retirement policy

Action follows pressure from House and Senate lawmakers who introduced bipartisan AFTER Act to require all agencies to have such policies.

The Food & Drug Administration has enacted its first-ever policy allowing lab animals to be retired to private homes, rescues and sanctuaries when testing ends.

“There are occasions in which healthy live animals are available following their intended use in regulatory investigations, FDA said in its policy. “FDA fully supports the transfer of such study animals to other FDA animal program protocols, government agencies, accredited academic institutions or accredited laboratory animal facilities for further researcher, to long-term private homes or farms for adoption as pets or to [Animal Welfare Council] approved retirement sanctuaries that can provide suitable and human living  conditions for these animals.”

In July 2019, Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine), along with Sens. Gary Peters (D., Mich.), Martha McSally (R., Ariz.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D., N.H.), introduced the Animal Freedom from Testing, Experimentation & Research (AFTER) Act. The bipartisan bill would direct all federal agencies to develop and maintain a policy allowing for the adoption or retirement of dogs, cats, primates, rabbits and other regulated animals no longer needed for research in federal labs.

“There is no reason why regulated research animals that are suitable for adoption or retirement should be killed by our federal agencies. I’m pleased that the FDA has joined the [National Institutes of Health] and VA in enacting a lab animal retirement policy,” Collins said. “My bipartisan AFTER Act will help ensure all federal agencies allow animals to be placed in loving homes or sanctuaries whenever possible.”

More than 50,000 Animal Welfare Act-regulated animals (mainly dogs, cats, monkeys and rabbits) were used in federal labs in fiscal 2018. Currently, since federal agencies do not have policies on adopting or retiring animals that are no longer needed in research, many animals are killed. The AFTER Act will ensure that every federal agency that uses animals for research has policies in place to facilitate the relocation of retired, healthy lab animals to private homes, animal rescues or reputable sanctuaries.

Companion legislation was introduced in the House by Reps. Brendan Boyle (D., Pa.) and Jackie Walorski (R., Ind.).

“Animals used in taxpayer-funded laboratory research should have the opportunity to be humanely relocated after they are no longer needed. That’s why I introduced the AFTER Act, which would make sure all federal agencies implement policies allowing healthy animals to go to homes, rescues or reputable sanctuaries like the Peaceable Primate Sanctuary in my district,” Walorski said. "I’m encouraged by the FDA’s new lab animal retirement policy and look forward to bringing similar policies to other agencies by passing the bipartisan AFTER Act into law."

Boyle added, “For years, I’ve worked to end outdated government animal testing opposed by most Americans and have been disturbed at how many animals are killed at the end of research, even though there are individuals, rescues and sanctuaries ready to take them in. Having introduced the AFTER Act to require federal agencies to allow lab animal adoption, I am very happy with the FDA’s new policy allowing healthy dogs, primates, rabbits and other animals to be retired after research. I’ll continue to champion this issue to ensure that as many animals as possible get a second chance at a full and happy life outside of government labs.”

Justin Goodman, vice president of the White Coat Waste (WCW) Project, noted, "On behalf of the 1.2 million WCW advocates who urged the agency to take action, we applaud the FDA for creating a policy allowing primates, dogs and other animals purchased with tax dollars to be retired from federal labs when testing ends. Taxpayers bought these animals, and they want Uncle Sam to give them back."

TAGS: Policy
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