Federal animal testing, while still controversial, is now a little less macabre thanks to a recent policy amendment by the Food and Drug Administration.
Instead of euthanizing these poor critters after they’ve been involved in experiments, now the FDA’s opened up adoption and transfer practices so that healthy animals can retire after their stint in the lab. This new policy’s technically been in effect since November, as first reported by the Hill, but lacking any announcement from the federal agency the news went under the radar for months. Common pets like dogs, cats, and guinea pigs—as well as some farm animals—all fall under this amendment’s purview, according to official documents the outlet obtained.
“The FDA has an internal policy for the placement of research animals after study completion that has not been made public,” an agency spokeswoman told the Hill.
While the FDA supports efforts to reduce animal testing, the agency’s website reads, “there are still many areas where animal testing is necessary and on-animal testing is not yet a scientifically valid and available option.” Some of these instances include measuring how quickly a drug is absorbed into the blood or broken down chemically as well as conducting biocompatibility testing with newly developed medical devices. Around 800,000 animals are used in federally regulated laboratory facilities every year, according to statistics from the United States Department of Agriculture. Roughly one-quarter of those involve experiments wherein animals experience some type of pain.
The FDA’s updated policy—along with similar changes mirrored in the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Institutes of Health—is largely the end result of a recent animal welfare initiative launched by a bipartisan group of lawmakers. Last year, congresswoman Susan Collins, a Republican senator of Maine, introduced the Animal Freedom from Testing, Experiments and Research Act, which would require federal labs to find homes for eligible animals involved in their experiments upon the completion of their research.
“There is no reason why regulated research animals that are suitable for adoption or retirement should be killed by our federal agencies,” Collins told the Hill. “I’m pleased that the FDA has joined the NIH and VA in enacting a lab animal retirement policy.”