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Collins, Peters introduce bipartisan bill to connect retired government lab animals with loving homes

Apr 27, 2021

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Gary Peters, D-Mich., introduced the Animal Freedom from Testing, Experimentation, and Research (AFTER) Act April 27. The bipartisan legislation would 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.

“There is no reason regulated lab animals that are suitable for adoption or retirement should be killed by federal agencies,” Collins said. “Our bipartisan legislation would continue to build on the successful policies at DOD, VA, FDA, and NIH while directing all other federal agencies to facilitate and encourage the retirement of animals to help ensure they are placed in loving homes or sanctuaries.”

Peters said, “Ensuring that animals no longer used in federal research can be adopted into loving homes is simply the right thing to do. I am proud to partner with Sen. Collins to reintroduce this bipartisan legislation that would encourage federal agencies to collaborate with the shelters that can provide these animals a safe, nurturing environment for the next phase of their lives.”

The Maine Federation of Humane Societies endorsed the measure, saying, "As animal welfare leaders across the state of Maine, we share Sen. Collins’ concerns about what happens to animals both during and after testing. The Federation would like to thank Sen. Collins for introducing this important bill, and for her longstanding support of animal welfare in Maine and across the nation.”

White Coat Waste Project President and founder Anthony Bellotti said, “On behalf of our more than 3 million members in Maine and beyond, we applaud Sens. Collins and Peters for introducing the AFTER Act to ensure dogs, cats, primates and other animals get a second chance at life outside of a lab when government experiments end.”

In fiscal year 2019, the federal government experimented on approximately 38,000 animals (mainly cats, dog, monkeys, and rabbits) for research purposes. Currently, since federal agencies do not have formal retirement or adoption policies on animals that are no longer needed in research, many of them are killed. Recent peer-reviewed studies indicate that research animals that are adopted, however, often thrive in their new environments.

In 2013, Sen. Collins helped successfully led an effort to allow for the retirement of hundreds of primates that were formerly used in National Institutes of Health experiments.

The AFTER Act builds on the successful policies at DOD, VA, and NIH by directing all federal agencies to promote regulations that would facilitate the retirement of lab animals. The bill provides flexibility for each agency to devise its own policy, with the goal of ensuring that such animals, whenever possible, are retired and not killed.

The legislation also requires that animals be evaluated by a licensed veterinarian and pronounced both mentally and physically healthy before leaving an agency, helping to ensure a smooth transition to a new environment.

Finally, the bill encourages federal agencies to work with nonprofit organizations to help place retired animals in sanctuaries and shelters across the country, not just those closest to the research facility.

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