The New York State’s new bill: end of pet sale for good?

Chloe Kim

On February 3, 2020, the New York State Senate’s Domestic Animal Welfare Committee approved the bill (S.4234/A.6298) that has been introduced by Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal. The bill would prohibit retail pet stores and commercial pet shops from selling any dog, cat, or rabbit. It then also would prevent retail pet stores from buying dog, cat, or rabbit from a commercial puppy mill or pet breeders. To this date, California (2017) and Maryland (2018) are only two states that have enacted similar bills. If this bill passes, it will make New York the third state confirming its position against the puppy mill pipeline.

Cruel and inhumane conditions of puppy mills are known to some, but not widely and publicly enough to stop them from continuously exploiting puppies on demand. Commercial dog breeders are not afraid to treating and placing breeding dogs as profitable as possible, which include tiny overcrowded cages, unsanitary and dangerous facilities, little to none veterinary care, and merciless separation between mothers and babies and cage mates. The breeding dogs spend their entire lives in confinement, and they are bred at every possible opportunity, sometimes even when they are sick and exhausted, all for the profit. The puppies are then sold to pet brokers and transported to pet shops and retail stores for sale. These puppy mills, brokers, dealers, transporters, and retail shops complete the puppy mill pipeline, and individual customers who purchase the puppies at retail stores, whether they know or not, fuel the puppy mill pipeline to continue in business. This pet mill pipeline is not just limited to dogs. Daunting realities also exist for cats, as found in kitten mills, where their conditions are no better than those of puppy mills – if not worse. The kittens are placed in crowded wire cages to reduce labor cost for waste clean-up, with almost no veterinary care, and adult cats are repetitively bred until they are too sick to produce; once the breeding cats reach that point of sickness, we do not want to know what happens to them next. The new bill would deter this pipeline operation by prohibiting the selling and buying process between puppy (kitten) mills and retail stores.

Despite tremendous work of organizations, activists, scholars, and legislators to stop the pet mill operation, the results have been shown on only two states so far: California and Maryland. The federal government has also tried to regulate puppy mills but failed to do so successfully. It has been reported that the standard for breeder licenses is inadequate; enforcement power is weak, and penalties are light.

It should also be noted that the general target (including the new bill) of the pet mill bans so far only focuses on the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits. Although we are generally aware of dogs, cats, and rabbits being somewhat the most popular demands at retail pet stores, we also know that retail pet stores also sell so many other species, which include but not limited to birds, hamsters, ferrets, fish, and turtles; the list goes on. No laws are regulating a sale of other animals, nor are there any laws at least ensuring their condition at retail pet stores. No law yet cares about whether they are well fed and watered. The New York State’s new bill also does not mention anything else about the sale and purchase of pets other than dogs, cats, and rabbits. Retail pet stores could continuously sell and purchase hamsters, birds, gerbils, fish, and frogs, as many as they want, regardless of where and how these animals are bred and treated before they are sold to the customers. There is nothing that can stop retail pet stores to even operate hamster mills on their own, no matter how unethically and inhumanely they do so – as long as they do not buy or sell dogs, cats, and rabbits from commercial breeders and pet mills. How ethical and humane is that? We may rejoice New York’s great news on this bill. It will shut down, or lead to shut down, lots of puppy and kitten mill pipeline in New York pet sale market. It will also encourage retail pet stores to connect with local animal rescue organizations and animal adoption shelters that could help to guide the public towards adopting their companions from shelters, rather than purchasing them. However, the efforts should not stop there. New York is only the third state to ban on retail puppy sale (only if the bill passes), and we have lots of other animals that are still popular in demand without any regulation to ensure their safety. The new bill also does not ban an individual from purchasing dogs, cats, and rabbits from commercial breeders and mills directly. A small improvement should not blindfold us; the factories are still up and running unless we stop them all for good. 

Canadian beavers in Patagonia’s forests: environmental ethics and invasive species management

Andrea Galassi

According to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, beavers, the largest rodents in North America, are “one of the few species that significantly modify their environment.” By erecting of watertight dams of sticks woven with reeds, branches and saplings, which are caulked with mud, they diminish the stream erosion and form slow-moving ponds. As we can imagine, these ponds serve as habitat for a wide range of small aquatic life and also provide water and food for much larger animals. However, in some parts of the world, beavers had generated a decrease in the biomass and the volume of the forests, especially those classified, as “protected forests” because of they are associated with watercourses, an impact that is difficult to overcome in a natural way. Such is the case of Patagonian forests in Argentina and Chile.

beaver overpopulation — Tierra del Fuego

Going back in history, in 1946 10 pairs of beavers (Castor Canadensis) were brought from Manitoba to the Argentinian archipelago of Tierra del Fuego in an attempt to bring the fur industry to the area. But what Argentina´s military government ignored was the fact that beavers had no natural predators— like wolves, lynx, or coyotes— in the area in contrast to North America, which is home to bears and wolves. Thus the population swelled over the last 70 years, causing damage to thousands of old-growth trees –like Nothofagus or southern beeches forests- and peat bogs. In addition, the species has a serious impact on the ecosystem services of the turbines, which also have a specific role in basin regulation, in sustaining biodiversity and for their global contribution to carbon sequestration. Moreover, beaver dams –some of which I´ve actually witnessed myself when a recent visit to “Bahia Lapataia”, Tierra del Fuego- are so dominate that researchers can identify them in satellites images.

It was not until the 1990s that the governments of Argentina and Chile began to realize the magnitude of their beaver problem. Even though they tried to encourage recreational and commercial beaver hunting, trained hundreds of locals to trap encouraged restaurants to serve beaver-meat recipes and put a bounty on each beaver they could not reverse the damage because of low fur prices and hunting difficulties. Moreover, according to Alejandro Valenzuela -conservation coordinator for Argentina’s Southern Patagonia National Parks- the program caused more ecological damage than it saved: since beavers are territorial, the movement of a beaver colony from a pond, will allow new beavers will move in, but they won’t use the old dam. Instead, they will build a new dam, felling more trees and creating a larger pond in the process.

After several discussions, in 2008 Argentinian government –in cooperation with the Republic of Chile – began a 10-year mission to exterminate 100,000 beavers with traps and training hunters to eventually eradicate the species. Through the Secretary of Environment and Sustainable Development, the National Government established a Pilot Program in order to provide governance of invasive alien species. In 2019, preliminary results from a pilot project in Esmeralda-Lasifashaj region, which ran from October 2016 to January 2017 and from March to May 2017, were released. The studies show that “eradication was not achieved using the methods and efforts in the first part of the pilot study” [highlighting] “the need for more effort or the application of different techniques or trapping strategies. For example, daily checking of traps may cause the animals to be cautious so, the next step in the Programme will involve exploring alternative trapping methods to reduce disturbance”.

Consequently, at this moment all the efforts are centralized in the eradication and the fact that Argentina and Chile will also have to figure out how to restore the forests that have already been damaged by the beavers. This will be a next step. However, as an Animal Law student there are ethical questions for and against specific actions about the eradication of beavers as non-native specie from Patagonia that necessarily arise here. For instance, are beavers as individual sentient animals opposite to the value (at the species level) of plants and trees in Patagonia, and its ecosystems as well? Furthermore, is killing for conservation justified in order to eradicate invasive species?

Conservation Biology is “a multidisciplinary science that has developed to address the loss of biological diversity.” Its two central goals are “to evaluate human impacts on biological diversity and to develop practical approaches to prevent the extinction of species”. In other words, there is an inherent idea that CB is conformed by both value judgments and ethical decisions. Moreover, in the last few years Ethics and Animal Welfare have been presented an optional and newly born approach: the Compassionate Conservation Approach which aims to safeguard Earth’s biological diversity while retaining a commitment to treating individuals “with respect and concern for their well-being.” Even though there are currently two sides – those who consider killing to be unacceptable in any situation; and those who think it might be acceptable when there’s no other solution- by embracing animal ethics, the Compassionate Conservation Approach offers an interesting viewpoint by bringing the practices and sciences of animal welfare and conservation biology closer together and by envisioning the application of specific ethical arguments to improve the status quo of beavers versus ecosystem in Patagonia. The application of environmental ethics to political decisions can be crucial for understanding and settling our responsibility towards the multiple problems that currently affect our planet.

What’s going on with feral cats?

Chloe Kim

It is estimated that about 68 percent of U.S. households live with animal (non-human) companions, and there are approximately 94 million pet cats in the U.S. On the other hand, the number of feral cats in the U.S. is estimated as many as 160 million. Although this number is only an estimate, it still suggests that there are almost the same or a greater number of cats living without owners than pet cats who are (hopefully) well-fed and waters by their human companions. 

Feral cats are often used to mean stray cats and vice versa. Under some circumstances, they can mean the same thing. However, they are not entirely the same. Generally, a stray cat is a cat who was once domesticated, then was lost or abandoned and strayed from their home. A feral cat is a cat who was never domesticated or whose interaction/socialization with a human was lost. When a cat is born in a wild state, it is more likely that a cat would become (or remain) a feral cat. Sometimes, when a stray cat is left in the wild too long that his/her interaction with a human dwindles, he/she can become a feral cat. Either way, they both live in our communities, being exposed to a harsh and dangerous environment.

When one finds an unknown cat who seems to belong to no one, there are many things one can do: trying to find the owner first, making sure the cat does not look sick or in dangerous state, taking the cat in for scanning for a microchip and TNR (trap-neuter-return), or calling a local animal rescue center. One simple, easy, and very effective way to help the cat would be feeding and providing fresh water for the cat, and the legal consequences of giving hands for the cat may differ by states. There are only thirteen states that have laws addressing feral cats. In New York State, feral cats are considered as companions rather than as wildlife, and you can freely feed feral cats without violating any law. In Virginia and Delaware, you may feed feral cats, but then specific responsibilities may come along with the action; you may be considered the owner or caregiver after feeding feral cats consecutively, which means that you may have to be responsible for complying specific regulations for providing adequate care for them. Some states, like Connecticut, where each town adopts its ordinance as to keeping and registering feral cats, may impose certain requirements on feral cat keepers such as vaccinating and sterilizing them. New Jersey maintains managed cat colonies where feral cats are cared for by groups of volunteers, and the managed cat colonies should have their cats checked by a vet for public safety purposes. Depending on where you feed and provide shelter for feral cats, you may freely enjoy doing so or be liable for providing necessary services for them, and in extreme cases, may become liable for damages done by feral cats you feed.

Feral cats under anti-cruelty laws also vary by state. In all 50 states and the District of Columbia, one can be charged with a criminal offense, from as light as a misdemeanor to as heavy as a felony, for intentional killing and injuring of a cat. Sometimes a definition of a cat includes a feral cat as well. However, it does not mean that those laws were written with a specific intent to protect feral cats because the laws are generally more focused on pets under personal ownership. In some states, instead, feral cats are expressly excluded from their well-deserved protection. For example, Wyoming treats stray cats as a predatory animal, and therefore, there is no protection for them under anti-cruelty law. In South Dakota, one can be criminally charged under anti-cruelty law by poisoning or killing a cat who actually has an owner; feral cats or stray cats where their owners are unknown – or doesn’t exist –, South Dakota’s anti-cruelty law can’t do much for them.

A number of feral cats are growing every year, and their overpopulation poses various issues in many communities. If they are not well fed and sheltered, they may roam for food in trash and areas where food wastes are, which may develop into public sanitary and safety issues. Recently, researchers raised concern for endangered birds in Hawaii as feral cats become the birds’ predators.

Although their nature now made them difficult to socialize with humans, most of the feral cats (if not themselves at least their parents or grandparents) were once someone’s companions, who deserved nutritious food, fresh water, and a safe home. Once they were lost and abandoned, we started treating them as strangers and, in some cases, as dangers. Without specific guidelines and regulations, most people can only rely on their own resources and private organizations at best to feed and take care of feral cats; it may be challenging to protect feral cats in every aspect of law. However, state and local governments may start addressing the issue of feral cats so that we could better take care of them with what we have. Most feral cats only live less than two years on his/her own, and it is way too shorter than ten to twenty years if they are with their human companions providing them love and care they need. We should at least be able to provide them a healthy life, no matter how short it is, while they are with us.

Chemically Castrate the Swamp

  Alexis Tomaino

Atrazine wreaks havoc on the sex lives of adult male frogs, emasculating three-quarters of them and turning one in 10 into female. The 75 percent that are chemically castrated are essentially “dead” because of their inability to reproduce in the wild. The 10 percent (or more) that turn from males into females – something not known to occur under natural conditions in amphibians – can successfully mate with male frogs but, because these females are genetically male, all their offspring are male. The impacts of atrazine are most pronounced in frogs because they have highly permeable skin that can easily absorb the chemical. Exposure to atrazine at levels as low as 0.1 parts per billion has been shown to affect the development of sex characteristics in frogs. 

            Based on the evidence that atrazine is an endocrine disruptor to amphibians, the EPA should ban the use of Atrazine.  First, frogs are vital to a healthy ecosystem and their disappearance can disturb an intricate food web with cascading effects felt throughout an entire ecosystem. As tadpoles, they eat algae, helping regulate blooms and reducing the chances of algal contamination. As adults, their consumption of insects helps control populations, including adult mosquitoes and their larvae that can transmit diseases including Dengue fever, Malaria, West Nile fever and Zika.  Frogs are also an important source of food for a variety of animals, including birds, fish, and snakes.  But more fundamentally, frogs have existed for nearly 300 million years and have a right to exist unmolested.  As frogs are currently threatened by disease, pollution, habitat loss, invasive species and climate change, their populations have declined dramatically since the 1950s, and it is believed more than 120 species have already become extinct since 1980s.  Failure of the EPA to take action to protect frogs from the harmful effects of atrazine is tantamount to ignoring its mission to “reduce environmental risks … based on the best available scientific information.”

            Instead the Trump EPA has loosened restrictions on atrazine following the tenure as EPA adviser of Jeff Sands, a former pesticide-industry lobbyist for Syngenta.  Sands’s presence at the EPA drew criticism when the EPA scaled back a $4.8 million fine levied against Syngenta during the Obama years for violating pesticide regulations that resulted in the sickening of farm workers in Hawaii. The Trump EPA settled this case for a tiny fraction of $150,000, though the EPA also ordered Syngenta to spend a minimum of $400,000 to conduct worker training on how to use pesticides. Although Sands has asserted he did not influence these EPA decisions, Sands’s connection to Syngenta muddies the water and is in line with other actions from Trump’s EPA, which has focused on reducing regulatory burdens on industry and easing enforcement actions while bringing industry insiders into the administration to the detriment of the flora and fauna it is charged to protect.  

            Sands’s employment was permitted because of an ethics waiver in which the White House allowed Sands to work on issues he dealt with in the private sector because of “his deep understanding of agricultural issues forged through his previous service with Congress, a trade association and a company.” The waiver allowed him to work on issues that could affect his former industry, the agricultural sector, at large. While the waiver request did not expressly ask that he be exempted from rules prohibiting him from being involved with any agency action that would specifically affect a former employer, there is no evidence of compliance with these rules.  And although Sands’s departure from EPA in 2018 (and has subsequent employment as an adviser for Rep. Ted Yoho (Fla.), a conservative Republican lawmaker who sits on the House Agriculture Committee)  predates the November 2019 atrazine policy change announcement, the swampy smell lingers around the EPA’s decision to sacrifice frogs and promote Syngenta’s business.

Border Walls & Climate Change

Alexis Tomaino

Scientists now estimate that “half of all life” is “on the move” in direct response to anthropogenic climate change.  Yet at the very moment when ecological corridors for animal migrations should be safeguarded and prospectively secured because of climate change, more nations are constructing international barriers as a national security tool to impede human migration. Walls erected along international boundaries in the name of national security have unintended but significant consequences for biodiversity: they reduce the area, quality, and connectivity of plant and animal habitats.  And they block the ability of species to migrate and relocate to more suitable habitats.

            Since 1945, the number of large-scale, transnational border walls has increased from seven to 77, most built for the sole purpose of blocking human migration. This is a global crisis: in Africa, a barrier between Somalia and Kenya, made of barbed wire, concrete, and posts is nearing completion and a 1,700-mile sand wall fortified and surrounded by millions of land mines was built by Morocco along disputed, ungoverned territory on its border with Western Sahara. In Asia, Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for an iron wall around the Xinjiang region. In Central America, Ecuador has erected concrete panels along the Peruvian border.  In Europe, a mile-long wall exists at Calais, France funded by the United Kingdom to prevent migrants from accessing the Channel Tunnel and the Baltic States are raising a fence along their eastern frontier. And, in North America, the United States President Donald Trump has pledged to construct a “great wall” (the “Trump Wall”) along the 1,933 mile-long southern border between the United States and Mexico (the “Border”)—and in the process bisect a continent—in response to what he called a national security threat of human migration. 

            Although the construction of Trump Wall has been debated for a variety of reasons including illegal diversion of funds earmarked by Congress to fund the wall, largely absent from such discussions is a meaningful analysis of the devastating impact of such a wall on species’ climate change adaptation.  The border wall not only divides communities where millions of people live, it also cuts through the habitats of more than 1,500 wildlife species, disrupting a fragile and unique web of life in the borderlands. Aside from the physical wall, construction vehicle disturbance as well as lighting and noise pollution will wreak havoc on wildlife and sensitive habitat. Two animals—the ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) and Sonoran pronghorn (Antilocapra americana sonoriensis)— help bring this abstract problem into focus.  What’s undeniable is that the 654 miles of walls and fences already along the Border have cut off, isolated, and reduced populations of these amazing animals. 

A cat with its mouth open

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            “Drive slowly. Ocelots” signs still pepper the campus of the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley, located just twenty miles from the Border, harkening to the days when these small, spotted and striped felines roamed broadly throughout the Southwest.  But any actual sighting of ocelots now is a rarity.  Biologists estimate that fewer than 50 remain in the U.S.  Because of these small populations, the Trump Wall would, inter alia, weaken these species’ genetic health by blocking access to suitable mates in Mexico.  Populations with low genetic diversity are poorly suited to adapt to changing environmental conditions, shrinking habitats or new diseases.  Thus, without a concerted relocation plan, the ocelot would become extirpated in the U.S. because the Trump Wall result in the loss of connectivity with other ocelots.  

A herd of zebra standing on top of a dry grass field

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            Known as the “prairie ghost,” the Sonoran Pronghorn is a small antelope with a reddish-brown coat, white belly, and white and black face with shiny black horns.  These animals are the fastest land animal in North America. Only 400 Sonoran Pronghorn are estimated to remain in the wild with only 160 left in the United States.  In addition to weakening these species’ genetic health by blocking access to suitable mates in Mexico, Sonoran Pronghorn move nomadically in response to changing forage conditions and water availability as a result of sporadic rainfall and are uniquely susceptible to drought conditions that are expected to increase as a result of climate change.  Indeed, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommends in its 2015 Draft Recovery Plan for Sonoran Pronghorn that the ability to migrate to water sources be preserved.  Because they require large expanses of contiguous habitat to persist in the harsh desert environment, the Trump Wall would almost certainly result in the extinction of the Sonoran Pronghorn.

            The inherent conflict between the use of a Border wall as a “national security” tool to control human migration and the need to protect ecological migration corridors along the Border for species survival and ecosystem health in light of climate change must be resolved in favor of the animals.  Time is of the essence.  The Border is not yet completely walled-off and vital migration corridors still remain.  But to add insult to injury, many of these critical areas are on federal land which makes them the easiest to construct upon because the land is already under federal control.  For example, the Lower Rio Grande Valley includes protected areas home to a vast array of wildlife including endangered and threatened species with ranges not restricted to one country.  Indeed, the primary wildlife conservation strategy has been to link habitat patches that are isolated due to intense agriculture, urbanization, and security fencing, in order to create and maintain a more continuous wildlife corridor for the species that migrate and move among habitat areas. In south Texas alone, the federal government has spent over $80 million in taxpayer money to support piecemeal aggregation of the refuge which today exceeds 90,000 acres. These federal efforts to conserve the rich and diverse biology are imminently threatened by the proposed Border wall. And the eyes of the world are upon us.  The United States should cease construction of the Border Wall and commence a prioritization of animal migration corridors in light of climate change.  If we do not, we have no ability to speak out when others perpetuate the same mistake.

Denver Stops Bullying the Bully Breeds

Emma Campbell

Pit bulls were banned from Denver in 1989. There have been many legal challenges to the law and in 2004, the Colorado state legislature outlawed breed-specific bans. However, this only lasted about a year because the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that dog breeds were a local issue, and therefore the city had a right to ban pit bulls under their home rule authority.

Fast forward to 2020, Denver City Council passed a bill lifting the ban, replacing it with a registration system. Despite this glimmer of hope for the bully breeds the mayor vetoed the bill citing his uncertainty. The City Council had the opportunity to override that veto on February 24th. However, they were unable to get the votes.

When it comes to breed specific laws there is strong support and opposition from the public. There are outspoken members of the community on both sides, which can be seen in Denver as this law has been a topic of discussion. Two important questions to consider is why do these bans garner so much controversy and do they work?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States, 800,000 of them receiving medical attention, half of them being children. So, dog bites can pose a serious health risk. Denver initially implemented the ban because of two very severe attacks, one resulting in the death of a young boy.

However, the issue is very complex and any dog can bite, regardless of its breed. There are many factors that determine a particular dog’s chance of injuring a person, including their individual history, behavior, size, number of dogs involved, and the vulnerability of the person bitten. Breed-specific bans try to simplify a complex social problem and in doing so these laws divert resources away from actually fixing the problem.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has highlighted several reasons why breed-specific bans and restrictions are not a responsible approach to dog bite prevention:

  • Breed-specific laws can be difficult to enforce because a dog’s breed cannot always be determined by how it appears. “Pit bulls” are the most frequent targets of breed-specific legislation and they are not even a breed.
  • Breed-specific legislation is discriminatory against responsible owners and their dogs.
  • Breed bans do not address the social issue of irresponsible pet ownership.
  • It is not possible to calculate a bite rate for a breed or to compare rates between breeds because the data reported is often unreliable. This is because:
    • The breed of a biting dog is often not known or is reported inaccurately.
    • The actual number of bites that occur in a community is not known, especially if they don’t result in serious injury.
    • The number of dogs of a particular breed or combination of breeds in a community is not known because it is rare for all dogs in a community to be licensed. For example, Denver City Council noted that approximately only 20% of dog owners have their dog registered with the town.
    • Statistics often do not consider multiple incidents caused by a single animal.
    • Breed popularity changes over time, making comparison of breed-specific bite rates unreliable.

The AVMA also highlights strategies for dog bite prevention:

  • Enforcement of generic, non-breed-specific dangerous dog laws, with an emphasis on chronically irresponsible owners.
  • Enforcement of animal control ordinances such as leash laws, by trained animal care and control officers.
  • Prohibition of dog fighting.
  • Encouraging neutering for dogs not intended for breeding.
  • School-based and adult education programs that teach pet selection strategies, pet care and responsibility, and bite prevention.

The AVMA is not alone. There is a long list of groups from varying points of view that voice concern over the implementation of breed specific bans, like the CDC, Humane Society, American Bar Association, State Farm Insurance, and the United States Department of Justice, just to name a few.

Denver is not alone, there are are various municipalities throughout the United States that have breed specific bans. Also, all military bases exclude pit bulls, rottweilers, doberman pinschers, chow chows, and wolf hybrids. There is no evidence that shows that these bans are successful. It is often argued by ban advocates that there is no evidence that it is not successful, and it is better to be safe than sorry. That may sound good, but the issue is that good dogs and responsible dog owners are punished because of an unwarranted fear. The evidence does show that the way people treat their animals has a direct correlation with how their animal behaves. Instead of worrying about the dog in your neighbor’s yard, you should worry about your neighbor.

“Furever” Home or Hospice? New FDA Regulation Approves Animal Abuse and Allows Labs to put the Abused up for Adoption

Giovanna DiFilippo

Humans have used animals for experimentation in biomedical research as far back as ancient Greco-Roman times. Classic philosophers, including the likes of Aristotle and Erasistratus, recorded their experiments on animals and their writings are some of the first records of animal testing in existence. There is no doubt that animal testing has been widely utilized by experimentalists in biomedical research. Such inquiries have helped humankind to advance many of the medical developments we use today. However, technology is rapidly expanding upon society’s biomedical research and it is no longer necessary for humans to experiment on animals. In fact, many biomedical companies and cosmetics companies that test on animals have been subjected to societal pressure to cease testing on animals. Just last week the Food and Drug Administration publicly announced that it will endorse a policy that allows laboratory animals to be adopted once they are no longer needed for experimental use. Many animal rights activists view this new policy as a victory for laboratory animals, but it only perpetuates the interests of the laboratories in experimenting on these animals.

            According to Cruelty Free International, testing on animals is defined as “any scientific experiment or test in which a live animal is forced to undergo something that is likely to cause them pain and suffering.” The animals are harmed deliberately and not for their own interests, but for the interests of furthering scientific inquiry for the overall benefit of society. Some experiments commonly performed on animals in laboratories include injecting animals with known toxic substances, exposing animals to radiation, performing surgery to purposefully remove vital organs and tissues, and forcing animals to inhale poisonous fumes. The most popular animals used to experiment on in laboratories are by far rats and mice. However, laboratories also use fish, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, farm animals, birds, cats, dogs and nonhuman primates.

            For years the Food and Drug Administration has defended animal testing on the basis that animal testing is essential for some medical devices where nonanimal testing would not be a viable option. However, biomedical technology has advanced enough to where a scientist can now reproduce human tissues and perform accurate experiments on that laboratory created human biological material. Yet the Food and Drug Administration maintains that animal testing reliably measures how much of a drug is absorbed into the blood stream, how a medical product is chemically broken down in the body, the toxicity of a product and how quickly that product is excreted from the body. These justifications do not take into consideration how nonhuman animals are imperfect specimens for predicting how such experiments would affect the human body.

            These laboratories obtain their animals from “class A” dealers and “class B” dealers. “Class A” dealers are those in the business of breeding animals exclusively for their use in these scientific experiments. The “class B” dealers are merely brokers who sell animals to these laboratories after acquiring them from animal shelters. Those animals who survive these abhorrent experiments are typically euthanized by the scientists that experiment on them. This new policy of the Food and Drug Administration to adopt “retired” lab animals as pets is not a new concept. Other agencies, such as the National Institute of Health and the Department of Veteran Affairs, have also supported similar policies of their own encouraging the adoption of retired laboratory dogs. No federal legislation or policy currently exists surrounding this issue.

            Many animal rights activists are celebrating the Food and Drug Administration’s new policy supporting the adoption of laboratory animals after they are no longer needed for experimental use. However, no substantial change was seen when the other agencies, such as the NIH and VA, adopted similar policies. Animals are still going to be tortured relentlessly by scientists in the name of scientific discovery and biomedical research. Animal advocates should not celebrate the recognition that these animals need homes only at the end of their experimental use. Instead, animal advocates should increase their focus on preventing the use of animals for experimental testing in the laboratories. By supporting these weak policies, animal advocates are communicating to the agencies and public that it is permissible to treat the animals as scientific commodities and, only if they survive the horrors of the lab, are they worthy of the privilege of living a healthier life.

            Even the promise of a happy and healthy retirement for laboratory animals is reprehensible. For their entire lives these animals are kept in solitude and abhorrent conditions. Most have no idea what it feels like to live outside of a small wired cage. They have been forced to undergo surgeries, ingest toxic chemicals, inhale poisonous fumes and live in high anxiety environments. Most animals will be untrusting of humans and thus would not be suitable for a family. Some others will become very sick and not survive very long in their adoptive homes.  Pulling the survivors out of these labs is comparable to releasing a cancer patient from their hospital room to live out their final days in hospice; it’s a nicer alternative than dying alone in a tiny cage, but it does not remedy what the laboratories are enabled to do to these animals in the future. It instead allows for more animals to be subject to this torturous life, only to be granted a final few years, months or days in a loving home. Animal activists and advocates alike need to save their celebratory sentiment for a larger purpose and continue the fight for animal liberation from these laboratories that exist to solely torture these vulnerable souls.