Teddy’s Law, recently signed into law by the Governor, was drafted so that dogs and cats used in laboratories can be adopted, instead of killed, when no longer of use. Big thanks to the lead sponsors, Senators Hertel and Polehanki, for working their hearts out to save animals who sacrifice so much.
However, there were changes made before final passage that need our attention.
Two bills were written to create Teddy’s Law:
- HB 148 requiring basic reporting on the number of animals used and released for adoption
- HB 149 requiring adoptions of research dogs & cats when no longer of use
Versions of both have been introduced several times over the last decade but blocked behind the scenes by state universities and private laboratories.
Most recently, Michbio, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, and Charles River Labs opposed the bills with excuses from “we already do adoptions” (without proof) to “the animals are too sick and dangerous to adopt out” (also without proof).
They further insisted reporting on adoptions would be too arduous as they are already overburdened by strict reporting and care standards by the USDA and the Animal Welfare Act of 1966. A statement that would be laughable if it were not so tragic.
Later, likely realizing their opposition looked bad, they claimed to support Teddy’s Law, but with changes. Those changes focused on eliminating “onerous reporting” and giving their vets more leeway to order death over adoption. (Read Michbio’s statement here.)
Of course, these complaints were just “gorilla dust.” Completing a 5-question form annually is hardly onerous for any organization, let alone a wealthy research facility. And we’ve already seen highly successful adoption programs in other states with “beagle freedom” laws and in Michigan, most recently with the Envigo beagles. We know people yearn to give these abused animals loving homes.
The truth is that obstructions to Teddy’s Law were meant to further evade public scrutiny.
That’s because most people are against painful testing, cruel confinement, and needless killing of animals – particularly of companion animals whose sentience is hardest to ignore. The more the public knows, the stronger the resistance grows.
In 2023, after valiant effort by some dedicated lawmakers and animal advocates, both bills finally passed out of state Senate and House committees.
Unfortunately, before a final vote, problematic political concessions were made.
- Here is the crux of what SB 148 originally required labs to report annually:
- The total number of animals owned by the research facility.
- The total number of animals used for laboratory research.
- The total number of animals released by the research facility.
- The name & address of each animal shelter an animal was released to.
- The name & address of each animal shelter the laboratory has an agreement with to receive animals.
- Here is what it was changed to:
- Each year a research facility that uses laboratory animals shall submit a report to, and on a form provided by, the department that includes an attestation of compliance with the requirements of this act. The department…shall not make any information provided on the report available on the department’s website.
The only stated requirement is a form affirming the lab is following the law – one that cannot be posted online.
SB 149 also changed during the process:
- Here is the crux of what SB 149 originally said:
- Before euthanizing a laboratory animal that is no longer needed for research, a research facility shall offer the animal to an animal shelter located in this state for adoption.
- Here is what it was changed to:
- Before euthanizing a laboratory animal no longer needed for research that the attending veterinarian, determines is suitable for adoption, a research facility shall offer the laboratory animal directly to its employees or to an animal shelter located in this state for adoption.
The labs get sole discretion to determine adoptability, and they can offer those lucky ones to either employees or animal shelters. They can still kill with impunity, even when an animal is deemed adoptable, once they run out of employees who want to adopt.
With no reporting required and no shelters involved, their activities remain hidden from public view.
Of course, laboratories do have some reporting requirements through the USDA, NIH, and/or MDARD that can be pieced together by amateur detectives to create a picture of animal use. However, this information is not just opaque and minimal, it does not track adoptions — a far cry from the transparency we should expect from an industry largely funded with our tax dollars.
They know, as Sir Paul McCartney said, “If every slaughterhouse had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian,” transparency is not their friend.
Compromise is a part of progress. But these changes undermine the point of Teddy’s Law. No industry exploiting animals for profit (or grant money) behind closed doors does right by them by choice. And animals have no means to tell us or protest what is happening to them. Which is why reporting is essential.
So, now what?
First, we need to pass the original reporting requirements in SB 148.
Second, we need to pass HB 4849 known as Queenie’s law, that ends painful and traumatic experiments on dogs at publicly funded universities.
Then, we need to fight to end all cruel testing and lifelong confinement of animals. Now knowing that animals experience pain and trauma like us, it is morally unjustifiable to do to them what we will not do to ourselves.
Even if one believes that preserving human lives justifies the means, the facts say the opposite. Roughly 95% of drugs tested on animals fail in human trials. That is because testing animals in labs is based on archaic science and centuries-old medical models. We are genetic cousins, but our biology is too different for animal testing to be a reliable and predictive measure of effectiveness in humans. This is why, according to many experts like Dr. Aysha Akhtar, we are not finding the cures we so desperately seek.
Now is the time to push the research industry to catch up with medical science, embrace new and emerging technologies and innovations, and phase out animal testing. For their sakes and ours.