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Kaori Yoshinaga, a veterinary technology student at North Dakota State University, plays with her beagle in Fargo. Forum file photo

New Minn. law ensures lab animals be adopted

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Minnesota on Tuesday became the first state to ensure that dogs and cats used in laboratory testing be offered for adoption.

Gov. Mark Dayton signed the Omnibus Supplemental Budget Bill containing the Beagle Freedom Law.

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Authored by Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, and Rep. John Lesh, DFL-St. Paul, the law facilitates a relationship between taxpayer-funded laboratories and educational institutions that use cats and dogs for research with nonprofit animal rescues.

“It’s a piece of history,” said Kevin Chase, director of operations for the Beagle Freedom Project in Minnesota.

The bill’s passage marks the first time that any political body in the world has made it law that laboratory dogs and cats be adopted after research is completed, Chase said.

“We are overjoyed that Gov. Dayton signed this bill into law ensuring that countless dogs and cats have a chance to go to forever homes when their research experience is over,” said Shannon Keith, founder and president of the Los Angeles-based Freedom Beagle Project. “We expect that this is the beginning of many celebrations as other states follow suit.”

Similar legislation is being pursued in California and New York.

Across the country, almost 65,000 dogs, 96 percent beagles, are being used to test cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and household products, with little or no hope of getting out alive, Keith said.

Nationally, 6,000 people, including 300 in Minnesota, are on waiting lists to adopt beagles used in research, Chase said.

At one time, North Dakota State University used beagle dogs raised by students and staff to provide hands-on training in vaccinating, spaying, neutering, providing general health treatments, tests and examinations, said Teresa Sonsthagen, co-director of the veterinary technology program.

The school discontinued using beagles in 2010, at which time all were adopted into the Fargo-Moorhead community, she said.

The vet tech program now partners with Fargo-Moorhead animal rescue organizations to provide dogs and cats for vet tech training purposes.

NDSU does not use dogs or cats for any type of laboratory research, Sonsthagen said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Craig McEwen at (701) 235-7311

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