What happens to animals in research, after they are no longer needed for a study? In some cases, the research protocol does not call for euthanasia of the animals. Thus, rather than needlessly killing them, institutions are slowly beginning to find ways to provide these animals a life and a home after research. However it is done, institutions should have an adoption process that provides the guidance needed to ensure that all animals who can be retired at the end of a research protocol are offered the opportunity to be adopted or placed in a sanctuary.
Many institutions support the concept of retiring and adopting out research animals, but the actual practice remains uncommon. Among the many reasons: concern about public scrutiny, finding the right home or sanctuary, ensuring proper care of the animal, ensuring legal protections for the institution and the adopter, and maintaining financial support for sanctuaries.
AWI fully supports retiring research animals and commends those institutions that allow and facilitate this practice. As stated in our Policy on Research and Testing with Animals, “Animals should be permitted to retire after termination of their assignment(s) to research, testing, and education.” Also, the policy recognizes the important financial obligation of the funding agencies and institutions to provide for the lifelong retirement of the animals, particularly in cases where animals go to a sanctuary.
At last fall’s annual meeting of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS), an increased focus on retirement and adoption of research animals was evident. A panel discussion was held on this issue, providing hope that more resources will be devoted to research animal retirement. (Sample animal adoption forms are also available on the AALAS website.) Even with the obstacles, retirement and adoption of research animals can be rewarding—for the caretakers and scientists who know the animals were not needlessly killed, and especially for the animals who are allowed to live on in the comfort and security of a home or sanctuary.
AWI’s entire Policy on Research and Testing with Animals (addressing euthanasia and adoption, among other issues) can be found at www.awionline.org/content/awi-policy.